William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline: Act 3, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Meanwhile, in Wales, Belarius (under the pseudonym of Morgan) leaves the cave he calls home with his adoptive sons Guiderius (known as Polydor) and Arviragus (known as Cadwal). The trio greet the nature around them, and Belarius praises their life in the wilderness—he thinks it’s nobler than life at court.However, Guiderius says that since they’ve only ever known nature, they can’t know if what Belarius says is true. Guiderius argues that living apart from the court and excitement of cities may suit Belarius, but he himself chafes against the limitations of their rustic existence as if it were a prison. Arviragus echoes his brother’s sentiments, saying that “we have seen nothing./ We are beastly.”
This is the audience’s first glimpse of Cymbeline’s kidnapped sons living with their adoptive father. Their upbringing could not have been further from the court, which is apparent from the rugged, isolated landscape. Guiderius and Arviragus agitate for independence from their father, much as Cymbeline, the Queen, and Cloten have agitated for independence from Rome.
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Belarius insists that the brothers aren’t missing out on much. He describes the city as corrupt, and says that courtiers are plagued by fear. He also points out the injuries he sustained in war, and how his fortunes suddenly fell with Cymbeline, who used to consider him a friend. Two men convinced Cymbeline that Belarius was an ally of the Romans, even though he always remained faithful to the British King. That treachery resulted in Belarius’ banishment over the past twenty years. Belarius uses this as the ultimate illustration of why their life in nature is less dangerous and harmful than life at court. He asks the boys to go ahead on their hunt, and says that he will join them a little later on.
Belarius’ existence in the Welsh wilderness is another reminder of the dire consequences of deception. Because of rumors and gossip about where his loyalties lay, Belarius was banished at the hands of the King. That he’s spent twenty years in exile in nature shows the long-ranging consequences of lies told to people in positions of power. Juxtaposed with the letter ordering Imogen’s death, this scene confirms that deception can drastically alter the course of lives, if not end them entirely.
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
After the brothers have left, Belarius delivers a monologue about Guiderius and Arviragus’ true identities. He explains that their royal nature is hard to hide. Even though Guiderius and Arviragus don’t know it, they are Cymebline’s two sons, stolen from their nursery decades ago. Belarius reveals that he and the boys’ nurse, Euriphile, stole them. Belarius hoped that by taking the boys away from Cymbeline, he could threaten the royal line of succession, in revenge for the King taking Belarius’ lands away.
Belarius makes an argument for the innate nobility of his adopted sons. Nobility is not merely a social status, but a set of qualities which Guiderius and Arviragus demonstrate unwittingly. Belarius’ thirst for revenge parallels Cloten’s and Posthumus’, but Belarius did spare the boys’ lives, which shows his mercy. This is in keeping with more comedic plot conventions (affirming life) rather than the sorts of revenge tragedies evoked by Cloten and Posthumus’ decisions. This tension between genres makes Cymbeline a tragicomedy.
Nobility Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Despite the fact that Guiderius and Arviragus don’t know that they are really royals, Belarius thinks that they exhibit warrior-like, noble qualities. The brothers are ambitious, carry themselves well, and yearn to fight in battle. As Belarius hears that the brothers have found a deer, he goes to join them.
Even though they were raised far from the court, the brothers demonstrate characteristics befitting royalty, which Belarius fears will inevitably reveal them as the King’s sons. These qualities are ones to which Cloten aspires but fails to attain.
Nobility Theme Icon
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