Cymbeline ★★★☆☆

cymbeline (Custom)

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Title: Cymbeline
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 272
Words: 79K




From Wikipedia

Cymbeline, the Roman Empire’s vassal king of Britain, once had two sons, Guiderius and Arvirargus, but they were stolen twenty years earlier as infants by an exiled traitor named Belarius. Cymbeline discovers that his only child left, his daughter Imogen (or Innogen), has secretly married her lover Posthumus Leonatus, a member of Cymbeline’s court. The lovers have exchanged jewellery as tokens: Imogen with a bracelet, and Posthumus with a ring. Cymbeline dismisses the marriage and banishes Posthumus since Imogen — as Cymbeline’s only child — must produce a fully royal-blooded heir to succeed to the British throne. In the meantime, Cymbeline’s Queen is conspiring to have Cloten (her cloddish and arrogant son by an earlier marriage) married to Imogen to secure her bloodline. The Queen is also plotting to murder both Imogen and Cymbeline, procuring what she believes to be deadly poison from the court doctor. The doctor, Cornelius, is suspicious and switches the poison with a harmless sleeping potion. The Queen passes the “poison” along to Pisanio, Posthumus and Imogen’s loving servant — the latter is led to believe it is a medicinal drug. No longer able to be with her banished Posthumus, Imogen secludes herself in her chambers, away from Cloten’s aggressive advances.

Posthumus must now live in Italy, where he meets Iachimo (or Giacomo), who challenges the prideful Posthumus to a bet that he, Iachimo, can seduce Imogen, whom Posthumus has praised for her chastity, and then bring Posthumus proof of Imogen’s adultery. If Iachimo wins, he will get Posthumus’s token ring. If Posthumus wins, not only must Iachimo pay him but also fight Posthumus in a duel with swords. Iachimo heads to Britain where he aggressively attempts to seduce the faithful Imogen, who sends him packing. Iachimo then hides in a chest in Imogen’s bedchamber and, when the princess falls asleep, emerges to steal from her Posthumus’s bracelet. He also takes note of the room, as well as the mole on Imogen’s partly naked body, to be able to present false evidence to Posthumus that he has seduced his bride. Returning to Italy, Iachimo convinces Posthumus that he has successfully seduced Imogen. In his wrath, Posthumus sends two letters to Britain: one to Imogen, telling her to meet him at Milford Haven, on the Welsh coast; the other to the servant Pisanio, ordering him to murder Imogen at the Haven. However, Pisanio refuses to kill Imogen and reveals to her Posthumus’s plot. He has Imogen disguise herself as a boy and continue to Milford Haven to seek employment. He also gives her the Queen’s “poison”, believing it will alleviate her psychological distress. In the guise of a boy, Imogen adopts the name “Fidele”, meaning “faithful”.

Back at Cymbeline’s court, Cymbeline refuses to pay his British tribute to the Roman ambassador Caius Lucius, and Lucius warns Cymbeline of the Roman Emperor’s forthcoming wrath, which will amount to an invasion of Britain by Roman troops. Meanwhile, Cloten learns of the “meeting” between Imogen and Posthumus at Milford Haven. Dressing himself enviously in Posthumus’s clothes, he decides to go to Wales to kill Posthumus, and then rape, abduct, and marry Imogen. Imogen has now been travelling as “Fidele” through the Welsh mountains, her health in decline as she comes to a cave: the home of Belarius, along with his “sons” Polydore and Cadwal, whom he raised into great hunters. These two young men are in fact the British princes Guiderius and Arviragus, who themselves do not realise their own origin. The men discover “Fidele”, and, instantly captivated by a strange affinity for “him”, become fast friends. Outside the cave, Guiderius is met by Cloten, who throws insults, leading to a sword fight during which Guiderius beheads Cloten. Meanwhile, Imogen’s fragile state worsens and she takes the “poison” as a hopeful medicine; when the men re-enter, they find her “dead.” They mourn and, after placing Cloten’s body beside hers, briefly depart to prepare for the double burial. Imogen awakes to find the headless body, and believes it to be Posthumus due to the fact the body is wearing Posthumus’ clothes. Lucius’ Roman soldiers have just arrived in Britain and, as the army moves through Wales, Lucius discovers the devastated “Fidele”, who pretends to be a loyal servant grieving for his killed master; Lucius, moved by this faithfulness, enlists “Fidele” as a pageboy.

The treacherous Queen is now wasting away due to the disappearance of her son Cloten. Meanwhile, despairing of his life, a guilt-ridden Posthumus enlists in the Roman forces as they begin their invasion of Britain. Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, and Posthumus all help rescue Cymbeline from the Roman onslaught; the king does not yet recognise these four, yet takes notice of them as they go on to fight bravely and even capture the Roman commanders, Lucius and Iachimo, thus winning the day. Posthumus, allowing himself to be captured, as well as “Fidele”, are imprisoned alongside the true Romans, all of whom await execution. In jail, Posthumus sleeps, while the ghosts of his dead family appear to complain to Jupiter of his grim fate. Jupiter himself then appears in thunder and glory to assure the others that destiny will grant happiness to Posthumus and Britain.

Cornelius arrives in the court to announce that the Queen has died suddenly, and that on her deathbed she unrepentantly confessed to villainous schemes against her husband and his throne. Both troubled and relieved at this news, Cymbeline prepares to execute his new prisoners, but pauses when he sees “Fidele”, whom he finds both beautiful and somehow familiar. “Fidele” has noticed Posthumus’ ring on Iachimo’s finger and abruptly demands to know from where the jewel came. A remorseful Iachimo tells of his bet, and how he could not seduce Imogen, yet tricked Posthumus into thinking he had. Posthumus then comes forward to confirm Iachimo’s story, revealing his identity and acknowledging his wrongfulness in desiring Imogen killed. Ecstatic, Imogen throws herself at Posthumus, who still takes her for a boy and knocks her down. Pisanio then rushes forward to explain that “Fidele” is Imogen in disguise; Imogen still suspects that Pisanio conspired with the Queen to give her the poison. Pisanio sincerely claims innocence, and Cornelius reveals how the poison was a non-fatal potion all along. Insisting that his betrayal years ago was a set-up, Belarius makes his own happy confession, revealing Guiderius and Arviragus as Cymbeline’s own two long-lost sons. With her brothers restored to their place in the line of inheritance, Imogen is now free to marry Posthumus. An elated Cymbeline pardons Belarius and the Roman prisoners, including Lucius and Iachimo. Lucius calls forth his soothsayer to decipher a prophecy of recent events, which ensures happiness for all. Blaming his manipulative Queen for his refusal to pay earlier, Cymbeline now agrees to pay the tribute to the Roman Emperor as a gesture of peace between Britain and Rome, and he invites everyone to a great feast


My Thoughts:

This was much longer than the previous play or two and by the end I was getting antsy and ready for it to be over. And honestly, there are times I wonder about just reading the wiki page and calling that a day.

This Shakespeare Experiment isn’t going superbly. While not going off the rails on a crazy train, I don’t look forward to these at all. My zeal is definitely flagging and I feel like I’m doing a lot of slogging.




bookstooge (Custom)


32 thoughts on “Cymbeline ★★★☆☆

  1. I’ve just had a quick scroll through your previous reviews and see that you began this challenge in February 2018. Fair play, good sir, thou hast stuck with it for nigh over 2 years! I’m impressed:-) I studied old Shaxbeard in university but I haven’t read this one. I’m a big fan of The Tempest, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, A Winter’s Tale, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Do you have a favourite so far? And what kicked off this challenge?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, this is going to be a very multi-year project. Especially once I hit the sonnets 😦

      So far, nothing sticks out. I’m just having such a hard time with the verse that everything else pales in comparison.

      I’d been intending to do something like this since the 90’s but never got around to it. A fellow blogger (Manuel Antao) had recently finished up his own read through and waxed very lyrical and fired me up. Probably a good thing he isn’t reading my reviews anymore, I think I’d make him sad 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha! You seem to have enjoyed more than you haven’t. Your ratings seem fair to me, and I’ve only had a quick look… When I was studying the Bard I got really into his plays and wanted to read them all. That hasn’t happened yet, but you never know. I am determined to read Othello, at least.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t even heard of this one! I’m sorry you’re not enjoying the Shakespeare reads much, although I can understand why. I’m still having some fun with them, but I don’t know if I’ll read ALL of them. The more I read, the more they start to all feel very similar. At least they’re usually quick reads, and I do enjoy the sarcasm and puns.

    I actually was having Shakespeare flashbacks at one point in the 3rd Lightbringer book. The author made a pun on quell and quail if I remember correctly, and I was thinking at the time that it sounded like something Shakespeare would do.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Haha, I find the only quotes that are really sticking in my mind are the really commonly-used ones that I already knew before I read the plays anyway. It is nice to understand the context now, though.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I think your plan is the best one. While I have the patience for these plays now (as opposed to in my 20’s), I’ve read enough other stuff to feel like I have a solid literary foundation even without Shakespeare.


      1. Shakespeare does provide a solid background for more things than we usually realize, but I do agree that we can generally get by without it if we’re well-read enough in other areas. Still, I never had to read any of the histories for school (I don’t know how I managed that) so I feel like I should at least read some of those.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good luck if you do go for some of the ancient histories. I am looking forward to ones about the English kings with names that I recognize, like Henry 5th, etc 🙂


  3. That’s a shame. I’m just over half-way through the complete works, and I still love the project, even if the majority of his plays are no more than 3* reads for me.

    How are you getting on with the Sonnets?

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ll probably treat them like a book of short stories and read them interspersed with other books and take 3 months to work my way through them 😀 (maybe 4 or 5 months if I’m particularly un-poetry feeling)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. What I have read of them so far has not impressed me much. There were maybe 4 or 5 that I liked, but the others … meh.
            So, I hope they work for you but interspersing them sounds like a great plan.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Maybe you could just read the known plays and have more fun with them? I guess some of them are more universal than others… I’ve only ever heard of this one in passing, and it clearly seems to deserve the lack of hype 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s hilarious to see you struggle through this without a desire to quit, considering that this “challenge” is one that you’ve always wanted to complete in your lifetime! You wouldn’t even dare DNF one of the plays if you felt like it was utter garbage? 😮

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nope, DNF’ing is not an option for this. I might 1 star or something, but I won’t quit. I’m old enough to have the patience to get through it 😀
      If reading is school, then Shakespeare is gym class and I’m the poor kid picked last in dodgeball…

      Liked by 2 people

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