William Shakespeare

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Disguise Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Disguise Symbol Icon

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

The Cymbeline quotes below all refer to the symbol of Disguise. 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
Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

…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.

Related Characters: Cloten (speaker), Imogen/Fidele , Posthumus Leonatus
Related Symbols: Disguise
Page Number: 4.1.2-22
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Iachimo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Disguise
Page Number: 5.2.1-10
Explanation and Analysis:
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Disguise Symbol Timeline in Cymbeline

The timeline below shows where the symbol Disguise appears in Cymbeline. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3, Scene 4
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...idea: Lucius is on his way to Millford Haven with the Roman troops. Imogen can disguise herself in a man’s clothing and find Posthumus among the invading Roman troops. (full context)
Act 3, Scene 5
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
...clothes. When Pisanio leaves to retrieve the clothing, Cloten reveals his plan to the audience: disguised as Posthumus, Cloten will go to Milford Haven, rape Imogen, and kill Posthumus. He explains,... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 6
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
Disguised as a boy, Imogen stumbles onstage, exhausted, lost, and very hungry. She laments how everyone... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Theme Icon
The Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Nobility Theme Icon
...sole heir and future ruler, Imogen. Therefore, he decides to discard his Italian clothes and disguise himself as a British peasant instead. All signs point to a Roman victory, and Posthumus... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
The Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Lucius, Iachimo, and Imogen (still disguised as Fidele) enter. Lucius urges Fidele to run away from the fighting to save himself,... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Since the British have won, Posthumus decides to change out of his British disguise back into his Roman uniform. He won’t fight, but instead will surrender to even the... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
Morality and Loyalty Theme Icon
Imperialism vs. Independence Theme Icon
Lucius, Iachimo, 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... (full context)
Nobility Theme Icon of Posthumus’ letters to send Cloten toward Milford Haven, and how Cloten demanded to disguise himself in Posthumus’ clothes so that he could rape Imogen and kill her husband. Guiderius... (full context)