Cymbeline

Definition

Theater

  • A tragicomic romance by Shakespeare, first performedin about 1610 at the Globe Theatre. One of his last plays, it drawsits plot from legendary British history and an episode in Boccaccio'sDecameron. The play's curious blend of fairytale, black comedy,and patriotic chronicle has provoked mixed responses. Tennyson lovedit so much that he asked to be buried with his copy. Shaw, however,described the work as "stagey trash of the lowest melodramaticorder" and rewrote the last act as Cymbeline Refinished(1936). Famous actresses drawn to the role of Imogen have includedEllen Terry (1896), Peggy Ashcroft (1957), Vanessa Redgrave (1962)and Judi Dench (1979).

    In the plot Cymbeline, King of Britain, opposes the marriageof his daughter, Imogen, to Posthumus, a Roman soldier, and banishes him.Posthumus travels to Rome, where he unwisely boasts of Imogen's purity tothe treacherous Iachimo. In order to win a bet, Iachimo visits Britainand steals her ring as proof of Imogen's 'faithlessness'. Posthumusbecomes insanely jealous and hatches a plot to kill her. Imogen putson male dress and flees to Wales, where she lives in a cave with twoyoung men who turn out to be her long-lost brothers, stolen from courtas infants. Posthumus returns to Britain and saves Cymbeline's lifein a battle between the British and the invading Romans. He and Imogenare reconciled and a peace treaty concluded between Britain and Rome.The play contains the celebrated lyric 'Fear No More the Heat o' theSun'.

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