Cymbeline

Overview

Cymbeline, also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, set in Ancient Britain (part of the play is set in the area corresponding to Wales) and based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobeline. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance. Like Othello and The Winter's Tale, it deals with the themes of innocence and jealousy. While the precise date of composition remains unknown,...
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Cymbeline

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Overview

Cymbeline, also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, set in Ancient Britain (part of the play is set in the area corresponding to Wales) and based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobeline. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance. Like Othello and The Winter's Tale, it deals with the themes of innocence and jealousy. While the precise date of composition remains unknown, the play was certainly produced as early as 1611.
The plot of Cymbeline is based on a tale in the chronicles of Raphael Holinshed and is ultimately derived from part of the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth about the real-life British monarch Cunobelinus. Shakespeare, however, freely adapts the legend and adds entirely original sub-plots. Iachimo's wager and subsequent hiding-place inside a chest in order to gather details of Imogen's room derive from story II.9 of Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron.
Imogen (or Innogen), daughter of the British king Cymbeline, is in love with Posthumus Leonatus, a man raised in her father's court who is described as possessing exceeding personal merit and martial skill. The two have secretly married, exchanging jewellery as tokens: a ring from Imogen, a bracelet from Posthumus. Cymbeline has discovered the affair and banishes Posthumus for his presumption, for Imogen is currently Cymbeline's only child and so her husband is heir to the British throne. Cymbeline did have two sons before Imogen, Guiderius and Arviragus, but they were stolen twenty years before as infants by Belarius, a courtier banished as a traitor for supposedly conspiring with the Romans. Cymbeline is a vassal king of Caesar Augustus, and Caius Lucius, a Roman ambassador, is on his way to demand the tribute that Cymbeline, under the influence of his wife the Queen, has stopped paying. The Queen is conspiring to have Cloten, her cloddish and arrogant son by an earlier marriage, married to Imogen. The Queen also is plotting to murder both Imogen and Cymbeline to secure Cloten's kingship, and to that end has procured what she believes to be deadly poison from the court doctor, Cornelius; Cornelius, however, suspects the Queen's malice and switches the "poison" with a drug that will cause the imbiber's body to mimic death for a while before reviving. Imogen meanwhile secludes herself in her chambers, resisting entreaties that she come forth and marry Cloten.
Posthumus flees to Italy to the house of his friend Philario/Filario, where he meets Iachimo/Giacomo. Posthumus waxes at length on Imogen's beauty and chastity, and Iachimo challenges him to a bet that he, Iachimo, can seduce Imogen and bring Posthumus proof of her adultery. If he wins, Iachimo will get Imogen's ring from Posthumus's finger. If Posthumus wins, not only must Iachimo pay him but also consent to a sword duel so that Posthumus may avenge his and Imogen's affronted honour. 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 examines the room and Imogen's partly naked body for further proof. 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 west coast of Wales; the other to Pisanio, Posthumus's servant left behind at court, ordering him to murder Imogen at the Haven. On the way the anguished Pisanio instead shows his letter to Imogen, revealing 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 nausea from distemper and motion sickness.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare’s extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever.”—James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University, bestselling author of A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599
 
“A feast of literary and historical information.”—The Wall Street Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781500633950
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/24/2014
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.22 (d)

Meet the Author

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) - 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, the authorship of some of which is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories and these works remain regarded as some the best work produced in these genres even today. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as "not of an age, but for all time."

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century.

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Read an Excerpt

Cymbeline


By William Shakespeare

Penguin Books

Copyright © 1965 William Shakespeare
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0140714286

ACT 1

Scene 1

Enter two Gentlemen.


FIRST GENTLEMAN
You do not meet a man but frowns. Our bloods
No more obey the heavens than our courtiers'
Still seem as does the King's.

SECOND GENTLEMAN But what's the matter?

FIRST GENTLEMAN
His daughter, and the heir of 's kingdom, whom
He purposed to his wife's sole son -- a widow
That late he married -- hath referred herself
Unto a poor but worthy gentleman. She's wedded,
Her husband banished, she imprisoned. All
Is outward sorrow, though I think the King
Be touched at very heart.

SECOND GENTLEMAN None but the King?

FIRST GENTLEMAN
He that hath lost her, too. So is the Queen,
That most desired the match. But not a courtier,
Although they wear their faces to the bent
Of the King's looks, hath a heart that is not
Glad at the thing they scowl at.

SECOND GENTLEMAN And why so?

FIRST GENTLEMAN
He that hath missed the Princess is a thing
Too bad for bad report, and he that hath her --
I mean, that married her, alack, good man!
And therefore banished -- is a creature such
As, to seek through the regions of the earth
For one his like, there would be something failing
In him that should compare. I do notthink
So fair an outward and such stuff within
Endows a man but he.

SECOND GENTLEMAN You speak him far.

FIRST GENTLEMAN
I do extend him, sir, within himself,
Crush him together rather than unfold
His measure duly.

SECOND GENTLEMAN What's his name and birth?

FIRST GENTLEMAN
I cannot delve him to the root. His father
Was called Sicilius, who did join his honor
Against the Romans with Cassibelan,
But had his titles by Tenantius, whom
He served with glory and admired success,
So gained the sur-addition Leonatus;
And had, besides this gentleman in question,
Two other sons, who in the wars o' th' time
Died with their swords in hand. For which their father,
Then old and fond of issue, took such sorrow
That he quit being; and his gentle lady,
Big of this gentleman our theme, deceased
As he was born. The King he takes the babe
To his protection, calls him Posthumus Leonatus,
Breeds him and makes him of his bedchamber,
Puts to him all the learnings that his time
Could make him the receiver of, which he took
As we do air, fast as 'twas ministered,
And in 's spring became a harvest; lived in court --
Which rare it is to do -- most praised, most loved,
A sample to the youngest, to th' more mature
A glass that feated them, and to the graver
A child that guided dotards. To his mistress,
For whom he now is banished, her own price
Proclaims how she esteemed him; and his virtue
By her election may be truly read
What kind of man he is.

SECOND GENTLEMAN I honor him
Even out of your report. But pray you tell me, sole child to th' King?

FIRST GENTLEMAN His only child.
He had two sons -- if this be worth your hearing,
Mark it -- the eldest of them at three years old,
I' th' swathing clothes the other, from their nursery
Were stol'n, and to this hour no guess in knowledge
Which way they went.

SECOND GENTLEMAN How long is this ago?

FIRST GENTLEMAN Some twenty years.

SECOND GENTLEMAN
That a king's children should be so conveyed,
So slackly guarded, and the search so slow
That could not trace them!

FIRST GENTLEMAN Howsoe'er 'tis strange,
Or that the negligence may well be laughed at,
Yet is it true, sir.

SECOND GENTLEMAN I do well believe you.

FIRST GENTLEMAN
We must forbear. Here comes the gentleman,
The Queen and Princess.

They exit.


Enter the Queen, Posthumus, and Imogen.

QUEEN
No, be assured you shall not find me, daughter,
After the slander of most stepmothers,
Evil-eyed unto you. You're my prisoner, but
Your jailer shall deliver you the keys
That lock up your restraint. -- For you, Posthumus,
So soon as I can win th' offended king,
I will be known your advocate. Marry, yet
The fire of rage is in him, and 'twere good
You leaned unto his sentence with what patience
Your wisdom may inform you.

POSTHUMUS Please your Highness,
I will from hence today.

QUEEN You know the peril.
I'll fetch a turn about the garden, pitying
The pangs of barred affections, though the King
Hath charged you should not speak together. She exits.

IMOGEN O,
Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyra where she wounds! My dearest husband,
I something fear my father's wrath, but nothing --
Always reserved my holy duty -- what
His rage can do on me. You must be gone,
And I shall here abide the hourly shot
Of angry eyes, not comforted to live
But that there is this jewel in the world
That I may see again. [She weeps.]

POSTHUMUS My queen, my mistress!
O lady, weep no more, lest I give cause
To be suspected of more tenderness
Than doth become a man. I will remain
The loyal'st husband that did e'er plight troth.
My residence in Rome at one Philario's,
Who to my father was a friend, to me
Known but by letter; thither write, my queen,
And with mine eyes I'll drink the words you send,
Though ink be made of gall.

Enter Queen.

QUEEN Be brief, I pray you.
If the King come, I shall incur I know not
How much of his displeasure. [<Aside.>] Yet I'll move him
To walk this way. I never do him wrong
But he does buy my injuries, to be friends,
Pays dear for my offenses. [She exits.]

POSTHUMUS Should we be taking leave
As long a term as yet we have to live,
The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu.

IMOGEN Nay, stay a little!
Were you but riding forth to air yourself,
Such parting were too petty. Look here, love:
This diamond was my mother's. [She offers a
ring.
] Take it, heart,
But keep it till you woo another wife
When Imogen is dead.

POSTHUMUS How, how? Another?
You gentle gods, give me but this I have,
And cere up my embracements from a next
With bonds of death. his finger.]
Remain, remain thou here,
While sense can keep it on. -- And sweetest, fairest,
As I my poor self did exchange for you
To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles
I still win of you. For my sake, wear this.
[He offers a bracelet.]
It is a manacle of love. I'll place it
Upon this fairest prisoner. [He puts it on her wrist.]

IMOGEN O the gods!
When shall we see again?

Enter Cymbeline and Lords.

POSTHUMUS Alack, the King.

CYMBELINE
Thou basest thing, avoid hence, from my sight!
If after this command thou fraught the court
With thy unworthiness, thou diest. Away!
Thou 'rt poison to my blood.

POSTHUMUS The gods protect you,
And bless the good remainders of the court.
I am gone. He exits.

IMOGEN There cannot be a pinch in death
More sharp than this is.

CYMBELINE O disloyal thing
That shouldst repair my youth, thou heap'st
A year's age on me.

IMOGEN I beseech you, sir,
Harm not yourself with your vexation.
I am senseless of your wrath. A touch more rare
Subdues all pangs, all fears.

CYMBELINE Past grace? Obedience?

IMOGEN
Past hope and in despair; that way past grace.

CYMBELINE

That mightst have had the sole son of my queen!

IMOGEN

O, blessed that I might not! I chose an eagle
And did avoid a puttock.

CYMBELINE
Thou took'st a beggar, wouldst have made my throne
A seat for baseness.

IMOGEN No, I rather added
A luster to it.

CYMBELINE O thou vile one!

IMOGEN Sir,
It is your fault that I have loved Posthumus.
You bred hi
A man worth any woman, overbuys me
Almost the sum he pays.

CYMBELINE

What, art thou mad?

IMOGEN

Almost, sir. Heaven restore me! Would I were
A neatherd's daughter, and my Leonatus
Our neighbor shepherd's son. [She weeps.]

CYMBELINE

Thou foolish thing!

Enter Queen.

They were again together. You have done
Not after our command. Away with her
And pen her up.

QUEEN

Beseech your patience. -- Peace,
Dear lady daughter, peace. -- Sweet sovereign,
Leave us to ourselves, and make yourself some comfort
Out of your best advice.

CYMBELINE

Nay, let her languish
A drop of blood a day, and being aged
Die of this folly. He exits,

QUEEN

Fie, you must give way.

Enter Pisanio.

Here is your servant. -- How now, sir? What news?

PISANIO
My lord your son drew on my master.

QUEEN Ha?
No harm, I trust, is done?

PISANIO
There might have been,
But that my master rather played than fought
And had no help of anger. They were parted
By gentlemen at hand.

QUEEN I am very glad on 't.

IMOGEN

Your son's my father's friend; he takes his part
To draw upon an exile. O, brave sir!
I would they were in Afric both together,
Myself by with a needle, that I might prick
The goer-back. -- Why came you from your master?

PISANIO

On his command. He would not suffer me
To bring him to the haven, left these notes
Of what commands I should be subject to
When 't pleased you to employ me.

QUEEN, [to Imogen] This hath been
Your faithful servant. I da He will remain so.

PISANIO

I humbly thank your Highness.

QUEEN, [to Imogen]

Pray, walk awhile.

IMOGEN, [to Pisanio] About some half hour hence,
Pray you, speak with me. You shall at least
Go see my lord aboard. For this time leave me.

They exit.





Continues...


Excerpted from Cymbeline by William Shakespeare Copyright © 1965 by William Shakespeare. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction (Date, Romance and folktale, Tragedy and tragicomedy, The woman's part, Romans and Britons, Cymbeline on stage); The play; 'Hark, hark, the lark'; Textual analysis; Reading list.

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