From Academic Kids

The Mythical British King Cymbeline is identified with Cunobelinus

Cymbeline is a play by William Shakespeare. Critics often put it in a grouping called Shakespeare's Late Romances along with Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale.

The King, Cymbeline himself, is based on a British chieftain, Cunobelinus, who reigned before the time of the Roman invasion.

Though once held in very high regard, Cymbeline has lost popularity over the past century. Some have held that, written late in Shakespeare's career, the play was a personal joke of Shakespeare's, parodying his earlier works.

Plot Synopsis

Posthumous, a man of low birth but exceeding personal merit, has secretly married Imogen, daughter of King Cymbeline. Cymbeline, angered at this subversion of his will, banishes Posthumous from the kingdom.

Iachimo (or "Little Iago"), a soldier in the Roman army, makes a bet with Posthumous that he can tempt Imogen to commit adultery (as in Othello). The falsely besmirched Imogen, warned by Postumous' faithful servant Pisanio, fakes her death to weather the reverberations of this trick, and makes her way to Milford Haven on the West Coast of Britain (as Hero does in Much Ado About Nothing). There she befriends "Polydore" and "Cadwell," who, unbeknownst to her, are really Guiderrius and Arviragus, her own brothers. Two British noblemen swore false oaths charging that Belarius had conspired with the ancient Romans, which led Cymbeline to banish him twenty years before the action of the play. Belarius kidnapped Cymbeline's young sons in retaliation, to hinder him from having heirs to the throne. The sons were raised by the nurse Euriphile, whom they called mother and took her for such. Some have taken the convoluted plot as evidence of the play's parodic origins. At the play's resolution, virtually the entire cast comes forth one at a time to add a piece to the puzzle. Cornelius, the court doctor, arrives to dazzle everyone with news that the Queen is dead, reporting that with her last bloody breath she confessed her wicked deeds: she never loved old Cymbeline, she had Imogen poisoned by Pisanio (without Pisanio's knowledge), and she was ambitious to poison Cymbeline so Cloten could assume the throne. Cymbeline concludes with an oration to the gods, declares peace and friendship betwixt Britain and Rome, and great feasting in Lud's Town, concluding "Never was a war did cease, / Ere bloody hands were washed, with such a peace."


Imogen is one of the very small number of great female roles in Shakespeare.

The Yale Shakespeare edition suggests the presence of a collaborator during the writing of this play, and certainly some scenes (Act III scene 7 and Act V scene 2) may strike the reader as less characteristic of Shakespeare than the rest of the play.

Probably the most famous verses in the play come from the funeral song of Act IV, Scene 2, which begins:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

External links


  • Cymbeline ( - searchable, indexed e-text
  • Cymbeline ( - Full text at M.I.T.
  • Cymbeline ( - HTML version.
  • Cymbeline ( - plain text from Project Gutenberg



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