Throughout Cymbeline, disguises reveal a character’s true personality, showing that a person’s everyday appearance might not reflect the reality of who they are. In Cloten’s case, disguising himself as Posthumus reveals his duplicity. Though he has pretended to court Imogen with sincerity, he dresses as her husband in order to rape her and kill Posthumus. It is through that disguise, therefore, that Cloten’s violent, power-hungry, and deceitful nature reveals itself most fully. Disguises can also reveal a character’s good traits, as when Imogen disguises herself as a male servant named Fidele in order to search for her husband at Milford Haven. Through living as Fidele, she proves her tenacity, courage, and independence. Posthumus, too, disguises himself as a British peasant in the battle between the Romans and the Britons. Cymbeline praises the disguised Posthumus for his valor in fighting, which demonstrates Posthumus’ truly honorable qualities. Though characters in Cymbeline use disguises to obscure their true identity, the behavior they exhibit while in disguise reveals each of them for who they truly are.
Disguise Quotes in Cymbeline
…How fit his garments
serve me! Why should his mistress, who was made by
him that made the tailor, not be fit too? the
rather—saving reverence of the word—for ‘tis said
a woman’s fitness comes by fits. Therein I must
play the workman. I dare speak it to myself—for it
is not vain-glory for a man and his glass to confer
in his own chamber—I mean, the lines of my body are
as well drawn as his; no less young, more strong,
not beneath him in fortunes, beyond him in the
advantage of the time, above him in birth, alike
conversant in general services, and more remarkable
in single oppositions: yet this imperceiverant
thing loves him in my despite. What mortality is!
Posthumus, thy head, which now is growing upon thy
shoulders, shall within this hour be off; thy
mistress enforced; thy garments cut to pieces before
thy face: and all this done, spurn her home to her
father; who may haply be a little angry for my so
rough usage; but my mother, having power of his
testiness, shall turn all into my commendations.
The heaviness and guilt within my bosom
Takes off my manhood: I have belied a lady,
The princess of this country, and the air on’t
Revengingly enfeebles me; or could this carl,
A very drudge of nature’s, have subdued me
In my profession? Knighthoods and honours, borne
As I wear mine, are titles but of scorn.
If that thy gentry, Britain, go before
This lout as he exceeds our lords, the odds
Is that we scarce are men and you are gods.