William Shakespeare

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Cymbeline can help.

Cymbeline: Act 4, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Near the Welsh cave, Guiderius notes that the noise of battle now surrounds their formerly quiet home. Belarius wants to flee, but Arviragus urges him to find pleasure in “action and adventure.” Guiderius agrees, saying that going into hiding won’t prevent the Britons or Romans from finding them and killing them in the heat of battle. Belarius, nevertheless, insists that they go higher up into the mountains to hide. He fears that the news of Cloten’s death will arouse the suspicions of the British troops and result in their torture.
Belarius’ fear is no match for Guiderius and Arviragus’ innate sense of adventure and bravery. These noble characteristics, which Belarius once praised the boys for, now threaten his sense of safety.
Nobility Theme Icon
Arviragus counters that the Britons will be preoccupied with the Roman troops, and not with finding the missing Cloten. Belarius insists, though, that many soldiers in the British army will recognize Belarius from his fighting days. He’s scared that their peaceful rural existence has left him and his adopted sons unprepared for war.
Belarius stole the King’s children and faced no retribution. That he fears repercussions for this latest infringement on the royal family—Cloten’s murder—shows a different level of discernment in Belarius, who’s had twenty years to grow and change from his reckless younger years. He worries that there will be a reckoning for his actions, and, even though the boys display courage, Belarius fears that he hasn’t properly raised them for the types of fighting they’ll encounter—an education they would have had at court.
Nobility Theme Icon
Arviragus says that he wants to go to war to find honor and fame in battle. Guiderius agrees, and the brothers ask for Belarius’ blessing so that they won’t go into battle as disobedient sons. Finally, Belarius relents, saying that if they are willing to die for their country, he will be, too. To the audience, he reveals his fear that their noble blood will be spilled and their true identities revealed.
Arviragus and Guiderius once again prove themselves worthy of their noble titles, through the virtue of their bravery and the way they prize honor. Belarius seems to focus primarily on saving his own skin—he’s worried not about losing his sons in battle, but that in injury or death their revealed identities would mean punishment for Belarius for abducting the princes.
Nobility Theme Icon