Cymbeline is one of the less famous Shakespeare comedies but we loved it! When King Cymbeline exiles his daughter Imogen’s husband from the kingdom because of their private marriage, confusion, deceit and betrayal follow. Posthumous thinks Imogen is untrue, Iachimo lies and schemes, Belarius hides the king’s sons and Cloten plots Posthumous’ death. Amidst all the chaos, though, several heroes emerge. These are, as always with Shakespeare, the individuals who are true to principle regardless of the cost. Even though it may mean death for him, Pisanio refuses to kill Imogen when ordered to do so by his master. He says he must disobey to obey! Imogen also is true to her husband through thick and thin. Even when Posthumous thinks she is unfaithful and orders her death, Imogen refuses to rebel and accepts death willingly. Yet, all is well in the end. Shakespeare has those characters- Posthumous and Iachimo- who have made horrible mistakes repent completely of their choices. They come to see clearly how they have potentially caused irreparable damage to the lives of innocent victims. Through a dramatic change of heart, they become willing to accept any punishment, even death, for what they have done. In this way, justice is served and through the play Cymbeline, Shakespeare teaches us that when we strive to repair the damage we have done, “mercy seasons justice” and forgiveness and happiness follow.
Principle: Be true to what’s right and you’ll be true to others and yourself.
Themes: reason vs. passion; conscience; virtue; loyalty; deceit; fidelity
1- Why is there an evil step-mother in so many classics? What is the symbolism? What role does the Queen play in the tragedies that unfold?
2- Which of the characters make decisions out of passion? What are the consequences they experience? How can you avoid passionate decisions? Should you? Why or why not?
3- Which characters stand on principle? What are their consequences?
4- What is the symbolism of Posthumous’ dream?