William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline: Act 1, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
At their arranged meeting, Imogen tells Pisanio that she misses her husband already. She asks Pisanio about Posthumus’ last words before sailing to Italy, and he replies that Posthumus simply repeated “my queen, my queen!” in reference to her. He waved and kissed his handkerchief and stayed on deck to stare at the receding British shore. Imogen envies the handkerchief for receiving Posthumus’ kisses, and she claims that she would have broken her eyes watching Posthumus until he was far enough away to be the size of her needlepoint or a gnat, and then afterwards she would have cried.
Shakespeare paints a beautiful, mournful picture of the lovers’ strong, faithful bond in the face of separation. Like their jewelry, the handkerchief becomes a physical symbol of the lovers’ connection—Posthumus clings to and kisses it, and Imogen envies the handkerchief for its proximity to Posthumus. They yearn for connection, even across the sea.
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Imogen asks when they will hear from Posthumus, and Pisanio assures her that Posthumus will send word as soon as he is on land. She regrets not being able to say a proper goodbye to Posthumus, since Cymbeline interrupted their farewell before she could tell Posthumus how she often she would think about him and make him swear to not cheat on her with Italian women. She didn’t even get the chance to ask him to pray for her, or to give him a goodbye kiss. Instead, Cymbeline entered “like the tyrannous breathing of the north.”
Imogen reveals more deeply how she bristles at Cymbeline’s uncompromising attempts to control the course of her life. Not only has the King exiled her husband, but he has prevented them from the sort of farewell a married couple can expect. Imogen likens Cymbeline’s “tyranny” to a force of nature, to illustrate how harsh and unforgiving he is. Like the north wind, he freezes her attempts at self-determination. 
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One of the Queen’s ladies arrives, and tells Imogen that the Queen wants to see her. Imogen asks Pisanio to do as she has instructed him, and tells the lady she will attend the Queen. Pisanio promises to do as she has said, though the audience doesn’t know what she asked him to do.
While the audience doesn’t quite know what Imogen has asked Pisanio to carry out, the fact that he promises, twice, to do as she tells him demonstrates Pisanio’s firm loyalty to his mistress.
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