William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline: Soliloquy 4 key examples

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Definition of Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost thoughts and feelings as if... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself... read full definition
Act 2, Scene 5
Explanation and Analysis—The Woman's Part:

Outraged by the apparent betrayal by his wife Imogen and humiliated by Iachimo, Posthumus blames all of the evils and temptations to which men are subject on women in a lengthy, misogynistic soliloquy: 

Could I find out
The woman's part in me! For there's no motion
That tends to vice in man, but I affirm
It is the woman's part: be it lying, note it,
The woman's; flattering, hers; deceiving, hers;
Lust and rank thoughts, hers [...] slanders, mutability,
All faults that may be named, nay, that hell knows,
Why, hers, in part or all; but rather, all;
For even to vice
They are not constant but are changing still
One vice, but of a minute old, for one
Not half so old as that. 

Nursing his wounded pride once the Italian courtiers have left, Posthumus states that he wishes he could “find out” all the parts of him that derive from women and root them out, as all “vice in man” stems, he argues, from “the woman’s part,” including deception, flattery, lust, slander, and “mutability” or the tendency to change one’s mind suddenly. "All faults," he concludes, stem “in part or all” from women. While men might commit to a single vice, he suggests, women are not even loyal to their sins, but instead, go from sin to sin just as he believes they go from man to man. The bitter hatred of women that he expresses in this soliloquy marks a sharp reversal of his previous idealization of Imogen. 

Act 3, Scene 2
Explanation and Analysis—Good Service:

The outraged Posthumus, who believes that Imogen has conducted an affair with Iachimo, writes a letter to his former servant Pisanio requesting his assistance in his plot for revenge against her. In a private moment, Pisanio reflects upon the duties of a servant in a soliloquy: 

Disloyal? No. 
She’s punished for her truth and undergoes, 
More goddesslike than wifelike, such assaults 
As would take in some virtue. O my master, 
Thy mind to her is now as low as were 
Thy fortunes. How? That I should murder her, 
Upon the love and truth and vows which I 
Have made to thy command? I her? 
Her blood? If it be so to do good service, never 
Let me be counted serviceable. How look I 
That I should seem to lack humanity 
So much as this fact comes to?

In his letter, Posthumus solicited Pisanio’s help in murdering Imogen. Pisanio, however, knows that Imogen is innocent of the charges that Posthumus lays against her. Though he is loyal to Posthumus, he notes that this request exceeds the duties that one can reasonably expect of a servant. He forcefully rejects the notion that he is now compelled by duty to murder an innocent woman due to the “vows” that he made in the past to follow Posthumus’s commands. If “good service” includes murder, he reasons, then he hopes never to be “counted serviceable” again.

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Act 3, Scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—Sparks of Nature:

After sending Arviragus and Guiderius out to catch a deer for dinner, Belarius has a private moment in which he reflects upon the difficulty of raising these two brave and noble young men in a soliloquy: 

How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature! 
These boys know little they are sons to th’ King, 
Nor Cymbeline dreams that they are alive. 
They think they are mine, and, though trained up thus meanly, 
I’ th’ cave wherein they bow, their thoughts do hit 
The roofs of palaces, and nature prompts them 
In simple and low things to prince it much 
Beyond the trick of others. [...] 
 When on my three-foot stool I sit and tell 
The warlike feats I have done, his spirits fly out 
Into my story. 

Though Arviragus and Guiderius have no idea that they are the sons of the King, Belarius notes that it has proven difficult to “hide the sparks of nature,” or in other words, to conceal their innate nobility. Despite the humble house where they have grown up, with low a low roof that forces them to “bow” down, their ambitions rise as high as “the roofs of palaces.” Regardless of their upbringing, he concedes in this soliloquy that their inherently princely qualities shine out even while doing “simple and low things.” 

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Act 5, Scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—Could Not Find Death:

In the midst of the war between the Romans and the Britons, Posthumus wanders aimlessly through the chaotic battleground hoping to die for his role in Imogen’s apparent death. He reflects on the nature of honor, death, and warfare in a lengthy soliloquy: 

To-day how many would have given their honours
To have saved their carcasses! took heel to do't,
And yet died too! I, in mine own woe charm'd,
Could not find death where I did hear him groan,
Nor feel him where he struck: being an ugly monster,
'Tis strange he hides him in fresh cups, soft beds,
Sweet words; or hath more ministers than we
That draw his knives i' the war. Well, I will find him 
For being now a favourer to the Briton, 
No more a Briton. 

The British troops have not put up a unified front against the Romans. Instead, Posthumus observes that many have attempted to save themselves by fleeing the battle. Ironically, he notes, many of those who have forsaken their “honours” by running from the battlefield hoping to “have saved their carcasses” died anyway, meaning that they dishonored themselves for no reason. In contrast, Posthumus has attempted to “find death” wherever he hears death “groan,” but has had no luck. He argues that, despite his gruesome appearance, Death likes everyday domestic environments just as much as he does the battlefield. Wrapping up his soliloquy, he resolves to hunt down death (in other words, to die) by joining the opposing army just as the tide of battle is turning against the Romans. 

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