William Shakespeare

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Cornelius Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Cornelius is a doctor at Cymbeline’s court. He has instructed the Queen in medicine and the healing properties of herbs. When she asks him for poison, he pretends to give it to her, but he reveals to the audience that his concoction isn’t lethal—instead, it’s a strong sleeping potion. He does not trust the Queen, and even though he uses deception, he does so for a good reason: to prevent the Queen’s murderous tendencies. He is an upright physician who tries to prevent harm.

Cornelius Quotes in Cymbeline

The Cymbeline quotes below are all either spoken by Cornelius or refer to Cornelius. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Cymbeline published in 2003.
Act 1, Scene 5 Quotes

[Aside] I do not like her. She doth think she has
Strange lingering poisons: I do know her spirit,
And will not trust one of her malice with
A drug of such damn’d nature. Those she has
Will stupefy and dull the sense awhile;
Which first, perchance, she’ll prove on cats and dogs,
Then afterward up higher: but there is
No danger in what show of death it makes,
More than the locking-up the spirits a time,
To be more fresh, reviving. She is fool’d
With a most false effect; and I the truer,
So to be false with her.

Related Characters: Cornelius (speaker), The Queen
Page Number: 1.5.43-55
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

…She did confess she had
For you a mortal mineral; which, being took,
Should by the minute feed on life and lingering
By inches waste you: in which time she purposed,
By watching, weeping, tendance, kissing, to
O’ercome you with her show, and in time,
When she had fitted you with her craft, to work
Her son into the adoption of the crown:
But, failing of her end by his strange absence,
Grew shameless-desperate; open’d, in despite
Of heaven and men, her purposes; repented
The evils she hatch’d were not effected; so
Despairing died…

Mine eyes
Were not in fault, for she was beautiful;
Mine ears, that heard her flattery; nor my heart,
That thought her like her seeming; it had
been vicious
To have mistrusted her: yet, O my daughter!
That it was folly in me, thou mayst say,
And prove it in thy feeling. Heaven mend all!

Related Characters: Cymbeline (speaker), Cornelius (speaker), Imogen/Fidele , The Queen, Cloten
Page Number: 5.5.62-84
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cornelius Character Timeline in Cymbeline

The timeline below shows where the character Cornelius appears in Cymbeline. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 5
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...ladies away to gather flowers. While they’re gone, the Queen privately asks the court doctor, Cornelius, if he’s brought the drugs she requested. He gives her a box containing them, then... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Cornelius’ question surprises the Queen. She comments on how long she has studied with him, learning... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
As the Queen assures Cornelius not to worry, she sees Pisanio entering. In an aside, she calls Pisanio a “flattering... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Before he leaves, Cornelius reveals in an aside that he feels suspicious of the Queen’s motives and that he... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Cornelius leaves on the Queen’s urging. She then asks Pisanio if Imogen is still crying over... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
The Queen drops the box containing Cornelius’ compound, and Pisanio picks it up. The Queen tells Pisanio that he doesn’t know what... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
All at once, the doctor Cornelius and several ladies enter. Cymbeline can tell something is wrong by their sullen expressions. Cornelius... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
Cornelius continues, saying that the Queen hated Imogen, and would’ve poisoned Imogen if she hadn’t run... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...her. Pisanio defends himself, saying that he thought the Queen gave him medicine, not poison. Cornelius verifies this from the Queen’s confession. (full context)