[CYMBELINE, or Cunobelinus, was a grandson of Cassivellaunus. So much of a foundation has Shakespeare for his "Cymbeline"; the rest of the play is purely imaginative.
Whenever Cæsar overcame a tribe, it was his custom to demand that tribute be paid to him. In the following scene, Caius Lucius, a messenger from the Roman Emperor, has come to the court of Cymbeline in 43 A.D. to demand that the tribute, which the king had of late "left untender'd," shall be paid.
|The Editor. ]|
SCENE I. BRITAIN. A Room of State in Cymbeline's Palace.
(Enter, at one side, CYMBELINE, QUEEN, CLOTEN, and LORDS; at the other, CAIUS LUCIUS and Attendants.)
Cym. Now say, what would Augustus Cæsar with us?
Luc. When Julius Cæsar,—whose remembrance yet
Lives in men's eyes, and will to ears and tongues
Be theme and hearing ever,—was in this Britain,
And conquer'd it, Cassibelan, thine uncle,—
Famous in Cæsar's praises no whit less
Than in his feats deserving it,—for him
And his succession granted Rome a tribute
Yearly three thousand pounds; which by thee lately
Is left untender'd.
Queen. And, to kill the marvel,
Shall be so ever.
Clo. There be many Cæsars
Ere such another Julius. Britain is
A world by itself; and we will nothing pay
For wearing our own noses.
Queen. That opportunity
Which then they had to take from's, to resume
We have again.—Remember, sir, my liege,
The kings your ancestors; together with
The natural bravery of your isle, which stands
As Neptune's park, ribbéd and paléd in
With rocks unscalable and roaring waters,
With sands that will not bear your enemies' boats,
But suck them up to the top-mast. A kind of conquest
Cæsar made here; but made not here his brag
Of came and saw and overcame: with shame,—
The first that ever touch'd him,—he was carried
From off our coast, twice beaten; and his shipping—
Poor ignorant baubles!—on our terrible seas,
Like egg-shells mov'd upon their surges, crack'd
As easily 'gainst our rocks: for joy whereof
The fam'd Cassibelan, who was once at point,—
O, giglot fortune!—to master Cæsar's sword,
Made Lud's town with rejoicing fires bright
And Britons strut with courage.
Clo. Come, there's no more tribute to be paid: our
Cym. Son, let your mother end.
Clo. We have yet among us can gripe as hard as
Cym. You must know
Till the injurious Romans did extort
This tribute from us, we were free: Cæsar's ambition,—
Which swell'd so much that it did almost stretch
The sides o' the world,—against all color here
Did put the yoke upon's; which to shake off
Becomes a warlike people, whom we reckon
Ourselves to be.
Clo. We do.
Cym. Say then to Cæsar,
Our ancestor was that Mulmutius which
Ordain'd our laws,—whose use the sword of Cæsar
Hath too much mangled; whose repair and franchise
Shall, by the power we hold, be our good deed,
Though Rome be therefore angry:—Mulmutius made our laws,
Who was the first of Britain which did put
His brows within a golden crown, and call'd
Himself a king.
Luc. I am sorry, Cymbeline,
That I am to pronounce Augustus Cæsar,—
Cæsar, that bath more kings his servants than
Thyself domestic officers,—thine enemy:
Receive it from me then: War and confusion
In Cæsar's name pronounce I 'gainst thee: look
For fury not to be resisted.