Cymbeline

Cymbeline Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Cymbeline is the King of Britain, who was raised in Caesar’s court. With his first wife, he had three children: his daughter Imogen, and sons Arviragus and Guiderius. The young princes were stolen from the nursery, so Cymbeline has staked his kingdom’s fortunes on his sole heir, Imogen. After his wife’s death, he married the Queen, whose son Cloten has become Cymbeline’s stepson. Cymbeline wants to unify his kingdom and strengthen his rule by marrying Imogen to Cloten, a goal that is threatened when Imogen instead marries Posthumus. Though the play is named after Cymbeline, he actually doesn’t feature very heavily in the plot, except for a few key moments. As a character, he expects obedience and is quick to anger when someone defies him. He’s also easy to manipulate, which the Queen does constantly: it is she who pushes him not only to punish Posthumus and Imogen, but also to wage a war of independence against Rome. Cymbeline does undergo a transformation of sorts during the play. As he eventually learns of the Queen’s treachery, he gives up his grudge against Imogen and Posthumus, and also ceases his war against Rome. The transformation does not seem so much to be a factor of Cymbeline becoming smarter or wiser, but of him escaping the bad influence of the Queen.

Cymbeline Quotes in Cymbeline

The Cymbeline quotes below are all either spoken by Cymbeline or refer to Cymbeline. 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 1 Quotes

His daughter, and the heir of’s kingdom, whom
He purposed to his wife’s sole son—a widow
That late he married—hath referr’d herself
Unto a poor but worthy gentleman: she’s wedded;
Her husband banish’d; she imprison’d: all
Is outward sorrow; though I think the king
Be touch’d at very heart.

Related Characters: Gentlemen (speaker), Cymbeline, Imogen/Fidele
Page Number: 1.1.5-11
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

There be many Caesars,
Ere such another Julius. Britain is
A world by itself; and we will nothing pay
For wearing our own noses.

Related Characters: Cloten (speaker), Cymbeline
Page Number: 3.1.13-16
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

…Remember, sir, my liege,
The kings your ancestors, together with
The natural bravery of your isle, which stands
As Neptune’s park, ribbed and paled in
With rocks unscalable and roaring waters,
With sands that will not bear your enemies’ boats,
But suck them up to the topmast. A kind of conquest
Caesar made here; but made not here his brag
Of ‘Came’ and ‘saw’ and ‘overcame:’ with shame—
That first that ever touch’d him—he was carried
From off our coast, twice beaten; and his shipping—
Poor ignorant baubles!—upon our terrible seas,
Like egg-shells moved upon their surges, crack’d
As easily ‘gainst our rocks: for joy wherof
The famed Cassibelan, who was once at point—
O giglot fortune!—to master Caesar’s sword,
Made Lud’s town with rejoicing fires bright
And Britons strut with courage.

Related Characters: The Queen (speaker), Cymbeline
Page Number: 3.1.25-36
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

I heard no letter from my master since
I wrote him Imogen was slain: ‘tis strange:
Nor hear I from my mistress who did promise
To yield me often tidings: neither know I
What is betid to Cloten; but remain
Perplex’d in all. The heavens still must work.
Wherein I am false I am honest; not true, to be true.
These present wars shall find I love my country,
Even to the note o’ the king, or I’ll fall in them.
All other doubts, by time let them be clear’d:
Fortune brings in some boats that are not steer’d.

Related Characters: Pisanio (speaker), Cymbeline, Imogen/Fidele , Posthumus Leonatus
Page Number: 4.3.46-56
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 5, Scene 5 Quotes

CORNELIUS
…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…

CYMBELINE
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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IACHIMO
[Kneeling] I am down again:
But now my heavy conscience sinks my knee,
As then your force did. Take that life, beseech you,
Which I so often owe: but your ring first;
And here the bracelet of the truest princess
That ever swore her faith.

POSTHUMUS LEONATUS
Kneel not to me:
The power that I have on you is, to spare you;
The malice towards you to forgive you: live,
And deal with others better.

CYMBELINE
Nobly doom’d!
We’ll learn our freeness of a son-in-law;
Pardon’s the word to all.

Related Characters: Cymbeline (speaker), Posthumus Leonatus (speaker), Iachimo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gold and Jewelry
Page Number: 5.5.510-522
Explanation and Analysis:
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The fingers of the powers above do tune
The harmony of this peace. The vision
Which I made known to Lucius, ere the stroke
Of this yet scarce-cold battle, at this instant
Is full acomplish’d; for the Roman eagle,
From south to west on wing soaring aloft,
Lessen’d herself, and in the beams o’ the sun
So vanish’d: which foreshow’d our princely eagle,
The imperial Caesar, should again unite
His favour with the radiant Cymbeline,
Which shines here in the west.

Related Characters: Soothsayer (Philarmonus) (speaker), Cymbeline
Related Symbols: Eagles
Page Number: 5.5.571-581
Explanation and Analysis:
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Cymbeline Character Timeline in Cymbeline

The timeline below shows where the character Cymbeline appears in Cymbeline. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
The play opens at the court of King Cymbeline, who rules over Britain—a dependent state within the Roman Empire. Two gentlemen discuss recent events... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
...war, his father subsequently died of grief, and his mother died giving birth to him. Cymbeline took the orphaned Posthumus as his ward, and Posthumus grew up to be one of... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
...the Queen promises to treat her well, and also to speak favorably of Posthumus to Cymbeline after he has calmed down about Imogen and Posthumus’s secret marriage. Posthumus says he will... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
The Queen rushes in to tell the lovers to hurry up, because if Cymbeline finds them talking he will be furious at her. As the Queen hurries away, though,... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
Just as Imogen wonders aloud when they will meet again, Cymbeline enters in a rage, attended by several lords. Cymbeline insults Posthumus and commands him to... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
Imogen exclaims that death must hurt less than this forced separation. This only enrages Cymbeline more, and he lashes out at her for being disloyal and troubling him. Imogen responds... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
The Queen returns, and Cymbeline scolds her for allowing Imogen and Posthumus to be alone together. The Queen pleads for... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 3
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Back at Cymbeline’s court, the Queen sends her ladies away to gather flowers. While they’re gone, the Queen... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...to make perfumes, distilled liquids, and preserves. The Queen claims she’s so skilled that even Cymbeline has asked her for some of her compounds. As an advanced student, she thinks that... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...in exchange for his efforts. She explains that the box contains a medicine that’s saved Cymbeline from death five times. Pisanio tries to give it back, but the Queen insists he... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...him in the future. The Queen promises that she’ll obtain any promotion Pisanio desires from Cymbeline, and she even says that she will personally reimburse him for his service. (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
...base as strange.” She tells Iachimo that he has wronged Posthumus, and that she’ll tell Cymbeline all about Iachimo’s indecent proposal. If the King won’t take action against a foreigner who’s... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
The Second Lord spots Cymbeline and the Queen coming their way. Cymbeline asks if Cloten is still waiting on Imogen,... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
The Queen tells Cloten that he owes a lot to Cymbeline for attempting to get Imogen to look favorably on him. She encourages Cloten to try... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
A messenger enters with word that the Roman ambassador, Caius Lucius, has arrived at court. Cymbeline says that Lucius is a good man, even though he is coming with an angry... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
...sure of Imogen’s staunch fidelity. Philario asks Posthumus how he will repair his relationship with Cymbeline, and Posthumus says that he plans to let time pass, and that Cymbeline will eventually... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Philario thinks that Lucius must have reached Cymbeline by now, and that Cymbeline will prove faithful to the Roman Empire and pay the... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...her to shreds. He swears to go to Britain to kill her in front of Cymbeline, and he exits. Philario marvels at Posthumus’ anger, and suggests that he and Iachimo follow... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
At court, Cymbeline asks the Roman ambassador Lucius what Emperor Augustus wants. Lucius reminds the Cymbeline that Cassibelan... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
...win Britain. But now Britons have an opportunity to win their freedom again. She reminds Cymbeline of his noble ancestors, and talks about the British landscape—an island guarded by sea—as well-fortified.... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
With the lords, Cloten, and the Queen rallying behind the cause of independence, Cymbeline feels emboldened. Citing the first British King Mumultius and the freedom of Britain before Julius... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Lucius regrets that he will have to break the news of Cymbeline’s refusal to the Emperor, and that he must declare Britain an enemy state. He explains... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
Cloten tells Lucius that Cymbeline still welcomes him at court, and asks him to spend a few more days of... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Nobility Theme Icon
...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’... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...“heresy” before ripping them apart. Imogen laments how Posthumus drove a wedge between her and Cymbeline. She asks once again for Pisanio to kill her, and complains that he’s slow in... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Back at Cymbeline’s court, Lucius says goodbye to Cymbeline. The Emperor has ordered Lucius to leave his new... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Lucius asks for safe conduct to Milford Haven, and wishes the Queen well. Cymbeline orders men to accompany Lucius. The ambassador asks to shake Cloten’s hand. Cloten agrees, saying... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
...notes that Lucius left frowning—she feels that making Lucius upset reflects well on their cause. Cymbeline gives an update on the looming battle: Lucius has written to the Emperor, so the... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...herself since Posthumus left, and that she needs time to get over him. She begs Cymbeline to go easy on Imogen. The attendant returns and reveals that Imogen’s bedroom door is... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
...that Imogen, in despair, has fled to find Posthumus, or to meet her death. Since Cymbeline’s sons disappeared long ago, if Imogen were out of the picture, then Cloten would become... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 7
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
...in Britain. As things stand, the gentry must be recruited to fight the war against Cymbeline. The Second Senator confirms that Lucius will be the invading army’s general. He also says... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 3
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
At his court, Cymbeline asks a servant for news of the Queen’s health. With her son Cloten missing, she... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
The lord informs Cymbeline that the Gallic forces have arrived on British shores, along with the Roman gentlemen recruited... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
The battle rages on. The British soldiers retreat, and the Romans capture Cymbeline. All seems lost when suddenly Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus enter to rescue the British King.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
The Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
...only way they could win was through divine intervention. Posthumus explains that the Romans captured Cymbeline, isolating the King and decimating the British troops. (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
...bragging about his valor in battle, and he orders that Posthumus be brought before King Cymbeline. (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Cymbeline, Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, Pisanio, soldiers and attendants enter with Roman captives. The British captains present... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
...grew up in a peaceful place. They died fighting bravely for the sake of Tenantius, Cymbeline’s father, showing loyalty and honor. The First Brother comments that Posthumus has been just as... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
The Gods and Fate Theme Icon
...a messenger enters, telling the First Jailer to remove Posthumus’ shackles and bring him to Cymbeline. Posthumus says that this is good news and that he’ll gain his freedom, but the... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
At Cymbeline’s court, the King asks Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus to stand next to his throne. He... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
Cymbeline asks about Belarius and his sons’ origins. Belarius says that they’re gentlemen from Cambria, nothing... (full context)
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 reveals that the Queen has... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
...Imogen if she hadn’t run away. Further, she had prepared a poison to slowly kill Cymbeline so that she could put her son on the throne. Once her plan failed and... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
...the Soothsayer, and other Romans enter, along with Posthumus and Imogen (still disguised as Fidele). Cymbeline takes a jab at Lucius, saying he and his army should worry more about their... (full context)
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
The Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Cymbeline agrees to Lucius’ request, and swears he’s seen Fidele before, telling Fidele that he will... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Cymbeline invites Fidele to make his demands, and asks Iachimo to step forward. Fidele asks Iachimo... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
...at last, Imogen and Posthumus embrace and swear never to go apart from each other. Cymbeline asks Imogen to pay attention to him, and she in turn asks him to bless... (full context)
Nobility Theme Icon
...kill her husband. Guiderius steps in to finish the story; he confesses to killing Cloten. Cymbeline asks Guiderius to deny it, otherwise he’ll have to send him to jail. Guiderius stands... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
...intervenes, stopping the guard from tying up Guiderius and hinting at Guiderius’ nobility. He tells Cymbeline he will prove his sons’ worth, even though it may be dangerous for him, and... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
Cymbeline is overjoyed to have his three children together, but he is sad to inform Imogen... (full context)
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
...events and he asks for the long version of the story. Instead of punishing Belarius, Cymbeline says he will consider him a brother for raising his sons, and Imogen says she... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
The Gods and Fate Theme Icon
...sons reunited with their royal father. The restoration will mean peace and prosperity for Britain. Cymbeline declares that peace will start now: he tells Lucius that he will, after all, pay... (full context)
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
The Gods and Fate Theme Icon
The Soothsayer reiterates Cymbeline’s call for harmony, saying that the gods are orchestrating this peace. He explains that seeing... (full context)