let's consider our main objective here: is this play written after the death of de Vere in 1604? I've relied on the Warwick edition of Shakespeare, edited by Alfred J. Wyatt M.A., director of modern language studies, Jesus College, Cambridge, published by Blackie & Sons, 1964. We'll refer to him as AJW. and give only excerpts from his Introduction.

AJW begins


The First Folio of 1623, the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays ... contained thirty-six of the thirty-seven plays now usually associated with Shakespeare's name- Pericles was not included until the Third Folio of 1664- one half of which had previously appeared as single plays in 'quarto' editions. the other eighteen being then published for the first time. Among the latter was Cymbeline, the last of the 'tragedies', and the last play in the book.

Date of Composition.- It is not possible to fix the date of composition of this play with certainty. The items of external and external-internal evidence are four in number:

(a) Dr. Simon Forman, the astrologer, in his M.S 'book of plays, and notes thereof', has under the year 1611, but undated, a brief sketch of the plot of 'Cimbalin King of England', which was Shakespeare's play. Forman died in September of that year, and his diary, which also contains dated descriptions of Macbeth and Winter's Tale, belongs to the years 1610-11. It is not improbable that, when Forman saw it, Cymbeline was a new play.

My comment:

This is mere guesswork. Even if it was 'a new play' what is meant by that is it was newly staged. It tells us nothing about when the play was actually written.

(b) The suggestion for the character of Euphrasia in Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster was apparently taken from Imogen. Moreover, compare these two passages:


I hear the tread of people. I am hurt:

The gods take part against me: could this boor

Have held me thus else?

Philaster, 4.3


...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?


Philaster is dated 1608-1611; 1611 would then be the downward limit for Cymbeline.

My comment:

This 'evidence' seems to me not to be evidence at all. I don't see any connection here, and any similarity is too remote to be 'evidence' of any value. I suggest that if there is a relationship between these two quotations it's more likely that both merely reflect some common saying of the time.

(c) The main plot of the play is derived from the ninth 'novel' of the second day in Boccaccio's Decamerone. From the same source Shakespeare took part of a speech of Autolycus in Winter's Tale, as will be manifest to anyone who compares these two passages following:


He has a son, who shall be flayed alive; then 'nointed over with honey, set on the head of a wasp's nest; then stand til he be three quarters and a dram dead; then recovered again with aqua-vitae or some other hot infusion; then, raw as he is, and in the hottest day prognostication proclaims, shall he be set against a brick-wall, the sun looking with a southward eye upon him, where he is to behold him with flies blown to death.

Winter's Tale, 4.4 812-821.

But as for Ambrogiuolo, the very same day that he was impaled on a stake, anointed with honey, and fixed in the place appointed to his no mean torment, he not only died, but likewise was devoured to the bare bones by flies, wasps, and hornets, whereof the country notoriously aboundeth.

Decamerone 2.9

The date of the Winter's Tale is 1610-11, and it is inferred that Cymbeline preceded it by no long interval.

My comment

We have no problem with the statement that the main plot of the play comes from Boccaccio. But then a firm date is given for The Winter's Tale - which we will investigate in the next chapter, - and 'it is inferred that Cymbeline preceded it by no long interval.' Once again there seems to be scholarly confusion between dates of publishing and dates of performance on the one hand, and dates of completed composition on the other. The unspoken assumption by scholars is that as soon as a play was completed it was put out for performance, because the man from Stratford on Avon would give it to the Globe Theatre right away as he needed the income and was an actor and investor there. But we have proved that to be quite wrong. The author was a nobleman. His plays appeared at Court and were often surreptitiously passed on to printers by actors, using what they remembered from their performance at Court. These actors were the ones needing the money and partly the reason so many earlier plays came into print as anonymous. Eventually the nobleman put a stop to this trafficking by using a 'pen name' and becoming involved directly through leasing his own theatre and/or through assistants skilled in the business of playwrighting and directing public performances. Some plays for personal reasons the author deemed inappropriate for general public viewing, and others were left incomplete, but even a few of these were passed on to printers by his widow after his death. We have found that the nobleman who best fits this scenario is Edward de Vere, to whom it applies perfectly.

(d) From the allusion to the story of Antony and Cleopatra in 2.4. 69-72:

... the story

Proud Cleopatra, when she met her Roman,

And Cydnus swell'd above the banks, or for

The press of boats or pride

and to the Troy legend in 4.2.252,253:

Thersites' body is as good as Ajax,

When neither are alive;

it has been supposed that Cymbeline comes after Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida, that is, after 1607.

If the foregoing evidence be valid, the limits of date are 1607 and 1611, and between these two years the composition of the play has been held to fall.

Malone conjectured that, inasmuch as Shakespeare drew material from the same parts of Holinshed's Chronicles for Lear, Macbeth , and Cymbeline, these three plays were written about the same time....Mr. Fleay postulates a double date for the play- part written in 1606-7, the remainder about 1610...the hypothesis of a double date, which would require very strong evidence, is far from being proved at the present time. It is more satisfactory to turn to the internal evidence, which will be found to point unmistakably towards the later date.

Cymbeline, the Tempest, and The Winter's Tale (with Pericles) form a small group with marked points of resemblance. They have been well christened 'romances'. There is a romantic element about these plays. In all there is the same romantic incident of lost children, recovered by those to whom they are dear - the daughters of Pericles and Leontes, the sons of Cymbeline and Alonso. In all there is a beautiful romantic background of sea or mountain. They all deal with divided and reunited families, with a background composed largely of country scenes. ... Not less marked are the resemblances in style, language, - often outpaced by the thought - metre. There are laxities in the dramatic contraction of Cymbeline... which place it without doubt among the author's latest plays.

My comment

It may be that Cymbeline was written as a play after Antony and Cleopatra and after Troilus and Cressida. First, this is only a supposition. And next, even if provable as correct, and it is not presently provable, again it gives us only a sequence of composition. It hangs one date on the others on the unsupported assumption that the 'dating' of composition of the two 'earlier' plays is firm, but in reality they are equally unproven.

There is nothing in any of this to identify when any of these plays were actually written. At best we have a possible approximate sequence of composition, but no firm dated evidence so far on which to peg any of it. AJW himself seems skeptical. He ends 'if the foregoing evidence be valid,' which implies that he has his doubts.

The metrical evidence of date is threefold:

(a) The proportion of unstopped to end-stopped lines in his verse increases steadily throughout Shakespeare's dramatic life. ...

Love's Labour's Lost 1 in 18.14

Cymbeline 1 in 2.52

The Tempest 1 in 3.02

The Winter's Tale 1 in 2.12

(b) the number of eleven-syllabled lines, lines with double or feminine endings, increases in like manner with the lateness of Shakespeare's work.

In Love's Labour's Lost 4% of the total

Cymbeline 32%

Winter's Tale 31.09%

The Tempest 33%

(c) weak endings, or decasyllabic lines ending in unemphatic words such as pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, are not found in the earlier plays; in the later plays, beginning with Macbeth, they increase in number almost continuously.

Cymbeline 4.83 of the whole

Tempest 4.59

Winter's Tale 5.59

My comments

It is not correct to call this 'evidence of date.'

This information is consistent in placing chronological order of composition as Cymbeline between the other two plays. Despite this 'metrical evidence' to the contrary, AJW dates Cymbeline first of the three, as follows:

... Thus it will be seen that the metrical unites with the other internal evidence in bringing these three plays of Cymbeline, The Tempest, and The Winter's Tale closely together in date of composition. If the last belongs to 1610-1611, and The Tempest to 1610, as is almost certain, we cannot be far wrong in dating Cymbeline 1609-1610.

My comment

We have no problem with the statement that Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest show similarities in metrical evidence and in plot. Then it is said that the dating of The Tempest to 1610 is 'almost certain' and therefore Cymbeline is dated in close proximity. This means that scholars are claiming that these three plays were not just performed - as none of them was published as far as is known before 1623 - but were actually written between 1609 and 1611.

In conclusion, no factual evidence to support any date for Cymbeline has been provided. We can say that there is a linking of it with the dating for The Tempest which is 'almost certain.' We'll investigate dating for that play in the next but one chapter, and if we accept what AJW is telling us, then the dating for both Cymbeline and The Winter's Tale will depend on the factual evidence for dating The Tempest.

Subsequent History.

There is little of importance in the subsequent history of the play. We know from the Office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, that it was acted at Court in January, 1633, and was 'well liked by the king.'


The sources of Cymbeline are twofold- one simple, the other more complicated. The main plot of the play is a mediaeval fiction, the setting is early British history. This historical framework, such as it is, Shakespeare took from Holinshed's Chronicles. It consists chiefly of a few names, especially those of Cymbeline and his sons... of a few allusions, as, for instance, to Mulmutius and his laws; and of the incident of a handful of men staying the flight of an army and turning defeat into victory, which Shakespeare, as was his wont, took from quite another part of Holinshed. The Queen, Cloten (all but the name), the life of the Court, Belarius and his theft and its consequences, are not in Holinshed, and no other source has been found for them.

The story of the wager, out of which Shakespeare constructed his main plot, is known to us, intact in all its essentials, in at least six different forms. They are

1, A French Miracle play, entitled Un Miracle de Nostre-Dame, probably of the 13th century

2. A French poetical 'Roman de la Violette' of the same century, by Gilbert de Montreuil

3. Another poetical French romance of the 13th century, 'Le Compte de Poitiers'

4. The ninth 'novel' of the second day in Boccaccio's Decamerone, which first appeared complete in English in 1620, but the dedicatory epistle of that edition states that many of Boccaccio's novels had been translated into English long before

5, The tale of the fish-wife of Stand on the Green Westward for Smelts ...which Malone dated 1603, but of which no edition earlier than 1620 is known; and the entry in the registers of the Stationers' Company confirms the later date

6. 'Frederick of Jennen' which Steevens describes as 'an ancient translation, or rather a deformed and interpolated imitation, of the ninth novel of the second day of the Decameron.'...printed in Antwerp in 1518.

In all these the plot is essentially the same: the wager, the repulse of the villain, the husband's attempted revenge, the wife's escape, the discovery of the fraud, the happy reconciliation of husband and wife, and the punishment of the criminal.

...(1) the miracle play, (4) the Decamerone tale, and (5) that in Westward for Smelts, stand out from the rest. It seems to me impossible to decide whether Shakespeare went direct to the Italian original, or borrowed from an English translation or close adaptation now lost; but that he drew material from the one or the other, I consider there is no room to doubt. The only other known source that can compete with the Decamerone is Westward for Smelts....That he knew the Decamerone version is proved by the quotation from Winter's Tale (given) above, and by the fact that the device of the trunk for conveying the concealed villain into the lady's bed-room is peculiar to that version; in Westward for Smelts he conceals himself under the bed. The mark on the lady's person is on the left breast in Boccaccio as in Shakespeare; it is not mentioned in Westward for Smelts.

But...there are a few remarkable resemblances between the Fishwife's tale and Shakespeare, which are also divergences from Boccaccio:

1, the villain proposes the wager, not the husband

2, the villain converses with the lady and is entertained by her, whereas in the Decamerone he only sees her asleep...

3. the lady requests the servant to fulfil his master's command and kill her, while in Boccaccio she begs for her life to be spared

4. she is found in great distress in her disguise by King Edward 4th in Westward for Smelts, becomes one of his pages (Cymbeline 5.5.86), and follows him into battle.

The principal actors are all Italian in Boccaccio and all English in the English tale, in Shakespeare two are English and one Italian.

My comments

The historical framework of the play is said to come from Holinshed's Chronicles. (1577). Part of this edition was not approved by the Queen; some pages were scrubbed out. Shakespeare may have used the 1587 enlarged and approved edition. Boccaccio lived 1313-1375. AJW tells us he finds it impossible to decide whether Shakespeare used the original Italian or some translation now lost. Of course, if de Vere is Shakespeare, he would have had no problem reading the original Italian and may have brought a copy of the Decameron back from his visit to Italy, unless he already had one, and there is no need to posit a lost translation.

Dating Cymbeline on the evidence of the Fishwife's Tale is a problem for any Shakespearean as the known first edition is in 1620. There is something wrong here as it eliminates almost every known candidate for Shakespeare including the man from Stratford on Avon. The only practical solution seems to be some tinkering with the play by Ben Jonson at the time of the First Folio in 1623, of which he was quite capable and for which he may have been naturally inclined. Alternatively, this means that the few minor similarities it exhibits with Cymbeline were perhaps independent alterations from Boccaccio by Shakespeare. All this shows there is no known factual evidence for a dating of Cymbeline and there is no reason related to sources as to why de Vere could not have written it..

A final quotation from the play's Introduction:

The play treats uniformly throughout two opposite ideas or moral qualities, namely, truth in word and in deed (fidelity), and untruth, and faithlessness, - falseness in deed or perfidy, falseness in word or slander.... Such words as 'truth', 'true' 'falsehood' false' 'lie' are of constant occurrence.

My comment

It's scarcely necessary to remind ourselves that the family motto of de Vere was 'vero nihil verius' (nothing is truer than truth) which de Vere found lends itself to puns on the family name 'Vere'. De Vere was intensely proud of this heritage. He sought always to refer to it in his literary work and emphasize his adherence to it as a rule in life.

Rather than follow AJW into a discussion of the various aspects of the play and its plot, let's do what we did with Pericles, and look at our own synopsis of Cymbeline itself. Then we can each form our own opinion as to what it's all about.


DRAMATIS PERSONAE (Major characters only)

Cymbeline, King of England

Cloten, son to the Queen by a former husband

Posthumus Leonatus, a gentleman, husband to Imogen

Belarius, a banished Lord, disguised under the name Morgan

Guiderius and Arviragus, sons to Cymbeline, disguised under the names of Polydore and Cadwal, supposed to be sons to Belarius.

Philario, Italian, friend to Posthumus

Iachimo, Italian, friend to Philario

Caius Lucius, General of the Roman Forces

Pisanio, servant to Posthumus

Cornelius, a physician

Queen, wife to Cymbeline

Imogen, daughter to Cymbeline by a former Queen

Act 1 Scene 1.

Britain, garden of Cymbeline's palace.

Two gentlemen converse. Between them they tell us that Posthumus was brought up as a Royal ward by the king since his father and two brothers died in wars defending their country and his mother died in his childbirth. Posthumus had grown to be a very fine young man. Imogen has married Posthumus but the King had intended her to marry Cloten. As a result Posthumus has just been banished and Imogen imprisoned in care of the Queen.

Also mentioned is the fact that the king's two sons were stolen at ages 2 and 3 about 20 years ago, but no one knows by whom or where they are.

The Queen enters with Imogen and Posthumus. She tells Imogen though you are my prisoner you won't find me 'after the slander of most step-mothers' and 'evil eye'd.' She leaves Imogen and Posthumus together for farewells.


O dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant can tickle where she wounds!

Words between Posthumus and Imogen show that they are very deeply in love. She gives him a diamond ring. He gives her a bracelet. He has to leave Britain for Italy.

The Queen who has come back says be brief, I'm not supposed to let you see one another. But in an aside she says I'll move the king to walk this way. She leaves again.

The king enters, and to Posthumus

Thou basest thing, avoid, hence from my sight.

The Queen enters. The king leaves. Pisanio enters, tells the Queen 'Your son drew on my master.' (Cloten drew his sword on Posthumus). The Queen asks if her son is hurt, Pisanio says

My master rather played than fought

and no harm done.

Imogen tells Pisanio 'Go see my husband aboard" and that she''ll see Pisanio in about half an hour.

They exit.

My comments:

We're told what we need to know about the plot directly by a few words from the characters, without long speeches. A lot goes on in this scene. It seems to be mature Shakespeare at work here.

Act 1. Scene 2 (1.2)

Enter Cloten and 2 lords.

The First Lord advises Cloten to change his shirt, after the violence of the action.

Cloten: Have I hurt him?

The 2nd Lord (aside):

No, faith, not so much as his patience.

1st Lord says he must be hurt.

The two Lords continue to say how well he fought but in asides say what a fool he was.


And that she should love this fellow and refuse me!


Cymbeline's palace.

Imogen asks Pisanio what was the last thing Posthumus said.

Pisanio tells her it was, his Queen, his Queen. He waved from on board until his ship was out of sight.

Imogen says she had 'most pretty things to say' and they had to part before she could give him that 'parting kiss.' A lady comes in to tell Imogen 'the Queen desires your company.' All leave.


Philario's house.

Enter Philario, Iachimo, a Frenchman, Dutchman and Spaniard.

Iachimo praises Posthumus to Philario.


His father and I were soldiers together, to whom I have been often bound for no less than my life.

Posthumus enters. He thanks the Frenchman for his 'courtesies' when Posthumus was involved in a quarrel in France. It transpires that the quarrel was similar to one last night among this group about whose mistress was the most fair, virtuous, wise, chaste, constant, qualified and less attemptable than any of the rarest of the ladies of another country. Posthumus says he still holds the same opinion.


Strange fowl light upon neighbouring ponds. Your ring may be stolen too, ... the one is but frail and the other casual. ... I dare ... pawn the moiety of my estate to your ring ... against your confidence in her reputation...

Posthumus: What lady would you choose to assail?

Iachimo: Yours, whom in constancy you think stand so safe. I will lay you 10,000 ducats to your ring, that commend me to the court where your lady is, with no more advantage than the opportunity of a second conference, and I will bring from thence that honour of hers you imagine so reserv'd.


I will wager against your gold; gold to it.


I would undergo what's spoken, I swear.


Will you?'s my ring...


...Your hand,- a covenant! We will have these things set down by lawful counsel...

They all leave.

My comments.

This is the kind of salacious material for which Boccaccio is famous. Surely, no man who loved his wife would be fool enough to become trapped into such a situation. Lending his ring is as good as telling Imogen he's already abandoned her, which isn't true, except that he's done so morally. My own view is that in any age a husband's prime duty to his wife is to do his best to protect her from the ills of this world, not deliberately put her at risk.


Britain: Cymbeline's palace.

Enter Queen, ladies and Cornelius.

The doctor asks her why she's commanded him to provide her with most poisonous compounds. She tells him it's to experiment with cats and dogs to learn how to 'apply allayments to their act.'

Pisanio enters. In an aside the Queen says

he's for his master, an enemy to my son... upon him will I first work.

She dismisses the doctor who in an aside comments

I do suspect you madam,

But you shall do no harm.

He explains the drugs she has will stupify a while, not kill.

The Queen tells Pisanio the moment he can tell her Imogen loves her son Cloten, she will make him richer than his master. She drops the box given her by Cornelius. Pisanio picks it up for her. She says

take it,

It is a thing I made, which hath the King

Five time redeem'd from death...

She leaves, after reminding him of her promise.

Pisanio comments

But when to my good Lord I prove untrue

I'll choke myself. - thus all I'll do for you.


The palace.

Enter Imogen alone:

A father cruel and a step-dame false

A foolish suitor to a wedded lady

That hath her husband banish'd.

Pisanio enters and introduces Iachimo

Madam, a noble gentleman of Rome

Comes from my Lord with letters.

The letter is read out loud, praising Iachimo in the highest terms. Imogen welcomes him. Pisanio leaves.

Iachimo begins by subtly telling her that her husband is misbehaving wantonly in Rome. Then he propositions her. She replies

If thou wert honourable,

Thou would'st have told this tale for virtue, not

For such an end thou seek'st, as base as strange.

Thou wrong'st a gentleman who is as far

From thy report as thou from honour; and

Solicits here a lady that disdains

Thee and the devil alike. What ho Pisanio!...

The king my father shall be made acquainted

Of thy assault.

Iachimo in a long speech says I was just testing you.

Imogen: You make amends.


He hath a kind of honour sets him of

More than a mortal seeming. Be not angry

Most mighty Princess, that I have aventur'd

To try your taking of a false report...

... the love I bear him

Made me to fan you thus,...

Imogen: All's well sir.

Iachimo then says I almost forgot, a small request, I have a trunk with 'plate of rare device and jewels of exquisite form' ... which a group of us including your husband have collected for a gift to the Emperor. Can I have safe storage for it overnight as 'I must aboard tomorrow.' Imogen says since her lord is involved she'll have it put in her bedchamber. He says if you would like to write your lord, please do so tonight. She says she will. they exit.


Before Cymbeline's palace.

Enter Cloten and 2 lords.

Cloten is complaining about someone he calls a 'whoreson jackanapes' and says 'I had a hundred pound on it.' He's entitled to swear if he wants to.

Whoreson dog! I give him satisfaction? Would

He had been one of my rank!

The lords appear to agree with him but in asides say what an insufferable fool he is. They tell him an Italian has come to court. Cloten says he'll go to see him and what he's lost today at bowls he'll win from the Italian tonight. One lord leaves with Cloten. The other stays to comment

That such a crafty devil as is his mother

Should yield the world this ass!

...alas poor princess

Thou divine Imogen...

What she endures between a father governed by this stepmother, the idiot Cloten wooing her, her husband forcibly expelled...

The heavens hold firm

The walls of thy dear honour... that thou mayst stand

T'enjoy thy banish'd husband and this great land!

My comments

So Cloten played a game, lost £100 and was swearing as he was losing. Someone protested at his language. This someone was of inferior rank and therefore Cloten could not give him the 'satisfaction' of a duel, (or sword fight).

It so happens that in 1579 de Vere was playing tennis and apparently had some words with Sir Philip Sidney, nephew of the Earl of Leicester. (See chapter 7 for more details on the career of Sidney). There are at least two versions of the altercation. But whatever caused it, and whatever was said, one challenged the other, but the Queen stopped it, pointing out to de Vere that Sidney was not of his rank and so he could not fight Sidney.

If de Vere was Shakespeare, he merely took an incident in his own life and some unspecified time later turned it around to suit the play he was writing. The alternative is that Jonson inserted this as a jibe against de Vere, but there would be little point if de Vere was dead by then. Stanley would have been unlikely to mock de Vere in this way as he was a friendly son-in-law. So I conclude de Vere wrote it. This incident was well publicized at the time and has been referred to since by historians. It must have etched itself into de Vere's mind, if he was Shakespeare. Here's Polonius speaking in Hamlet, Act 2, scene 1, line 59

There falling out at tennis

But back to Cymbeline


Imogen's bedchamber, a trunk in one corner.

Imogen is in bed and asks her attending lady the time who says about midnight. Imogen says she's been reading for 3 hours then, she's very sleepy, asks the lady to leave the taper alight, and call her by 4 o'clock. The lady leaves; Imogen falls asleep.

Iachimo comes from the trunk. He notes every detail in the room. the location of pictures, a window, ornaments of the bed, he gently removes her bracelet without waking her, and notes

...on her left breast

A mole cinque-spotted...

He notes the book she's been reading, and the page she's at.

....I have enough.

To th'trunk again, and shut the spring of it.


Cymbeline's palace

An antechamber adjoining Imogen's apartments.

Enter Cloten and lords.

He's lost at a game again: now talks of music for Imogen to hear. He's ordered musicians who come. They play and sing a wonderful lyric melody

Hark, hark! The lark at heaven's gate sings...

The musicians leave, enter the King and Queen. Cloten says he's serenaded Imogen with music

but she vouchsafes no notice.

The king says it's too soon yet, after her husband left, give her time 'and then she's yours.'

Enter a messenger with news of 'ambassadors from Rome, one is Caius Lucius.'

All leave except Cloten who knocks on Imogen's door. A lady enters, says Imogen is staying in her rooms; Cloten gives her gold.'Sell me your good report.' She asks for what.

Imogen enters, the lady leaves. Cloten tells Imogen her loves her. She replies she has no regard for him and after some explanation

I care not for you.

Cloten says she sins against obedience to her father's wishes. Cloten goes on abusing her husband. She calls him a profane fellow. She says Posthumus' cast off clothing is dearer to her than 'all the hairs above thee.' If he were the son of (the god) Jupiter 'and as you now are, you would be too base' ...'to be his groom.'

Pisanio enters. She asks Pisanio to go to her woman and bid her search for the bracelet. She would not want to lose it

for a revenue of any kind in Europe.

Cloten is furious with her for demeaning him. She says then go tell the king and your mother.


Enter Posthumus and Philario

Posthumus thinks there will be war between Britain and Rome over payment of tribute.

Iachimo enters. He says

Your lady is one of the finest that I have look'd upon.

He says he's won the ring. He says he's now possessed of both her honour and the ring but he has wronged no one 'having proceeded but by both your wills.'

Posthumus says if you can't prove it, your sword or mine.

Iachimo begins by describing the bedchamber in detail. Posthumus says this proves nothing.

Iachimo shows him the bracelet. Posthumus says she could have lost it

Then Iachimo mentions the mole on her left breast, and untruthfully says he kissed it.

Posthumus is convinced

Thou'st made me cuckold.

He is furious and ready to tear her limb from limb.

I'll do something.


Another room in Philario's house

Enter Posthumus

we are all bastards

He says he doesn't know where his father was when he was created, yet his mother seemed a paragon of virtue at the time.


A hall in Cymbeline's palace.

Enter in state Cymbeline, the Queen, Cloten, and others.

Enter from another entrance Caius Lucius and others.

The king and Lucius greet one another cordially. Lucius tells Cymbeline that Julius Caesar thought most highly of his uncle, yet defeated him in battle after which he granted Caesar from him and his successors a yearly tribute of £3,000 which 'by thee lately is left untender'd.'

Queen: and ...shall be so ever.

Cloten ... we will nothing pay

For wearing our own noses...'

After more of this Lucius says

I am sorry , Cymbeline,

That I am to pronounce Augustus Caesar,

Caesar, that hath more kings his servants than

Thyself domestic officers - thine enemy...

But despite this formality they welcome each other personally.


Another room in Cymbeline's palace.

Enter Pisano reading a letter.

He is shocked to read that Posthumus is ordering him to kill Imogen for adultery.

Imogen enters. She reads a letter from Posthumus saying he's at Milford Haven.

(EF Note: This is a place at the extreme southern coast of Wales facing the Irish sea. Much future action of this play is to take place in that area.)

Imogen asks Pisanio how far it is, and how 'we may steal from hence.' She orders him to get her a riding suit, not costlier than a franklin's wife would wear.

(EF Note: a franklin was a free-born landowner, not of noble birth, i.e. a commoner).


Wales, a mountainous country with a cave.

Enter from the cave Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus

Belarius says their life 'in th' rock' is a much better one than life at Court.

Richer than doing nothing for a bribe

Prouder than rustling in unpaid silk

No life to ours.

The boys as he calls them say he's known this other world, they only know the one they're in now. 'a cell of ignorance.'

Arviragus says when we are as old as you how shall we discourse

...We have seen nothing.

Belarius says his body is marked with Roman swords, Cymbeline loved him, but 2 villains swore to Cymbeline he was 'confederate with the Romans.' So followed his banishment and for 20 years this rock area has been his world. The 2 boys exit.

Belarius says they little know they are sons to the king, who has no idea they are alive. He mentions their names: Guiderius is now Polydore and he's the king's heir; Cadwal is really Arviragus. After his sentence of (unjust) banishment, Belarius stole the 2 sons, ages 2 and 3. Euriphile was their nurse. They thought she was their mother, and Belarius their father. She's now dead, and he's called Morgan.


Wales, near Milford Haven.

Enter Pisanio and Imogen.

She asks what's troubling him. He says please read this letter, She recognizes the handwriting of Posthumus. It contains his instructions to Pisanio to murder her for her inconstancy. Pisanio doesn't want to do it. She urges him to obey

Do thy master's bidding.

She draws the sword for him.


Hence, vile instrument

Thou shalt not damn my hand.

Pisanio says his master must be somehow abused

Imogen says 'some Roman courtesan'

Pisanio: no. on my life!

He will send some bloody sign of the deed, but she must leave Britain. He tells her Lucius the Roman comes to Milford Haven tomorrow. Disguise yourself and happily get near the residence of Posthumus in Rome.

Imogen: I... am almost a man already.

Pisanio says he's brought all the things she needs to change into an apparent young man. He will never fail to send her (financial) means abroad. They part company.

My comment

Promising to send financil support is not something everry playwright would think to mention. But when de Vere was travelling the Continent he wrote several times asking Burghley for more money, and eventually borrowed from an Italian.


Cymbeline's palace.

Enter Cymbeline, the Queen, Cloten, Lucius, and lords.

They say farewells, Lucius tells them

' right sorry that I must report ye

My master's enemy.'

He asks for safe conduct to Milford Haven. Cymbeline so instructs the lords, Lucius departs.

Cymbeline says we must gather our forces, the Emperor will soon be upon us.

A messenger enters, says Imogen's chambers are locked, and there's no response to 'the force of noise we made'.

Cloten says he hasn't seen Pisanio for 2 days. Cloten exits. The Queen hopes Pisanio will use the poison in the box she gave him. As to Imogen

Gone she is

To death or to dishonour, and my end

Can make good use of either. She being down,

I have the placing of the British crown.

Cloten returns: Tis certain she is fled.

Pisanio enters. Cloten demands to know where she is.

Pisanio gives to Cloten the letter from Posthumus and says this is all I know. Cloten says 'Wilt thou serve me?' Pisanio says he will.

Cloten wants a suit of clothing of Posthumus. Pisanio leaves to get it for him. Cloten says he will go to Milford Haven in hopes of seeing Posthumus there and killing him.


Wales before cave of Belarius.

Enter Imogen alone, in boy's clothes.

She's hungry and has lost her way to Milford Haven, sees the cave and enters it.

Enter Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus, all weary from the hunt

Guiderius says there's cold meat in the cave; they can eat that while cooking what they've killed.

Imogen comes out from the cave, offers to pay for what she's eaten. They ask her name and she says Fidele. Where is she going? To Milford Haven, and has a kinsman bound for Italy from there.

All four are very friendly.


Rome, a public place.

2 senators and 2 tribunes.

They say the Emperor's men are now in action against the Pannonians and Dalmatians, and the legions in Gallia (Gaul = France) are weak to war with the Britons. The Emperor has created Lucius pro-consul and the tribunes must have an immediate levy, Lucius to be General of the forces, both those now in Gallia and the new levy.


Wales, near the cave of Belarius

Enter Cloten alone.

...Posthumus, thy head, which is now growing upon thy shoulders, shall within this hour be cut off: thy mistress enforced; thy garments cut to pieces before her face; and all this done, spurn her home to her father... out sword, and to a sore purpose: Fortune put them into my hand...


Wales, before the cave of Belarius.

Belarius tells Imogen she is not well.

Remain here in the cave.

We'll come to you after hunting

Imogen admits she is sick, not well. Both Guiderius and Arviragus say they love (her, now him) as a brother. (She's actually their sister).

Imogen (aside)

These are kind creatures. Gods, what lies I have heard!

Our courtiers say all's savage but at Court.

She swallows some of Pisanio's medicine from the box.

Arviragus says how angel like 'he' sings,

Guiderius mentions 'his' 'neat cookery' which they describe.

Cloten enters, saying 'I cannot find those renagates.'

Belarius thinks he means them. He recognizes Cloten from long ago. He and Arviragus leave and Imogen is now in the cave. Guiderius stays.

Cloten calls him a villain. Guiderius says

...Thou art some fool;

I am loath to beat thee...

Cloten: Thou injurious thief

Hear but my name and tremble

Guiderius asks: What's thy name?

Cloten replies Cloten, thou villain

Guiderius says

Cloten. thou double villain, be thy name,

I cannot tremble at it.

Cloten: To thy further fear,...

I am son to th'Queen.

Guiderius: I am sorry for't; not seeming

So worthy as thy birth...

At fools I laugh, not fear them

Cloten: Die the death...

They exit fighting.

Belarius and Arviragus enter, still discussing whether it was Cloten.

Guiderius come in with Cloten's head. He says

This Cloten was a fool, an empty purse

...Yet I not doing this, the fool had borne

My head as I do his.

Belarius says he couldn't have come alone.

Guiderius says he'll throw the head into the creek and let it go out to sea. Belarius is concerned it will be revenged. He tells Arviragus to go to do the cooking with Fidele.

Guiderius returns. They hear solemn music. Guiderius asks why is Cadwal playing I haven't heard this playing since my mother died. What's the matter.

Enter Arviragus carrying Imogen as dead.

After much spoken kindness about 'the lad' Belarius says let us bury him Guiderius says near our mother. Belarius says we should bury Cloten also. The two boys sing a song:

,,,Golden lads and girls all must

As chimney sweepers, come to dust.

All three leave.

Imogen wakes up.

Yes sir, to Milford Haven. Which is the way?

She recognizes Posthumus' clothes on Cloten's headless body and thinks it's Posthumus headless next to her. She blames Pisanio and Cloten for it. She falls fainting on the body.

Enter Lucius, Captains and a soothsayer

Lucius: But what from Rome?

A captain tells him that Rome is sending gentlemen of Italy to aid the legions

...and they come

Under the conduct of bold Iachimo...

The soothsayer describes a dream he had and interprets it as 'success to th' Roman host.'


How? A page? dead on a trunk without his top?


He's alive, my lord.

Lucius questions Imogen, and then asks if 'the page' 'wilt take thy chance with me?'

Imogen (as Fidele)

I'll follow sir.

But she asks first to bury her master.


Thy name well fits thy faith.


Britain, Cymbeline's palace.

Enter Cymbeline, lords, Pisanio, and attendants

Cymbeline comments on Imogen gone, the Queen sick in bed, Cloten gone, and 'fearful wars point at me.' He will torture Pisanio to find out what happened to Imogen. Pisanio says he knows nothing and will serve Cymbeline. A lord says he (Pisanio) was here the day Imogen was missing.

A lord says the Romans have landed on your coast. All leave but Pisanio. He says he hasn't heard from his master since telling him Imogen was slain. Nor has he heard from Imogen, or what has happened to Cloten.

wherein I am false I am honest, not true, to be true.


Wales, before the cave of Belarius

Enter Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus

They think they will be slain by the Romans. Arviragus thinks the Romans will be too busy to be bothered with them,

Belarius says he's known to many in the Roman army

The sons decide they will fight, and he will join them.


Britain. The Roman camp

Enter Posthumus alone with a bloody handkerchief.

He says he has deep regrets that Pisanio obeyed and Imogen is dead. He's been brought among the Italian gentry to fight 'against my lady's kingdom'

...I'll disrobe me

Of these Italian weeds, and suit myself

As does a Britain peasant. So I'll fight

Against the part I come with.


Britain. A field of battle between the British and Roman camps.

Enter Lucius, Iachimo and Roman army at one door and the British army at another, Posthumus following like a poor soldier. They march over and go out.

Enter again in skirmish Iachimo and Posthumus. Posthumus vanquishes and disarms Iachimo then leaves him.


The heaviness and guilt within my bosom

Takes off my manhood. I have belied a lady,

The Princess of this country...


The battle continues. The Britons fly. Cymbeline is taken. Then enter to his rescue Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus. Posthumus comes in and joins them. They rescue Cymbeline and exit.

Reenter Lucius, Iachimo and Imogen.

Lucius: Away, boy, from the troops and save thyself.


'Tis their fresh supplies

Lucius: It is a day turn'd strangely...Let's reinforce or fly.


Another part of the field (of battle).

Enter Posthumus and a Britain lord.

Posthumus describes how the British fled through a lane, but it was 'ditch'd and wall'd with turf,' and there was a white haired warrior and two striplings stopped the butchery and pursuit by the Romans. They not only fought they cried "Stand, Stand" to the fleeing Britons and

Ten chas'd by one

Are now each one the slaughterman of twenty.

The lord exits.


This is a lord! O noble misery,

To be i'th'field and ask 'what news' of me!

Fight I will no more

But yield me to the veriest hind that shall

Once touch my shoulder. Great the slaughter is...

...for me... I'll...

end it by some means for Imogen.

Enter 2 British captains and soldiers

They say Lucius is taken. It's thought the old man and his sons were angels. There was a 4th man 'in a silly habit,That gave th'affront with them'...

They find Posthumus who tells them he's a Roman. They seize him and bring him to the king.

Enter Cymbeline, Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus. The captains present Posthumus to Cymbeline who delivers him to a gaoler.


Britain, a prison

Enter Posthumus and 2 gaolers

Ist Gaoler

You have locks upon you.



Most welcome bondage, for thou art a way,

I think, to liberty... you good gods...

For Imogen's dear life take mine...

He sleeps.

His father enters as an apparition with his wife (Posthumus' mother) then the 2 younger brothers of Posthumus with wounds. as they died, in war. They call on Jupiter for help. He descends in thunder and lightning, sitting on an eagle. He tells the kneeling family he'll do something about the Imogen problem. They all vanish.

My comments:

Some very long speeches. They speak in quatrains (alternate line rhymes) with four stresses to a line, except from Jupiter on which has five stresses a line. Personally I don't believe this is Shakespeare. I think someone inserted it. It's unnecessary. The unfolding plot is quite effective as it is. The only reason for it seems to be to create an interval between the gaolers leaving Posthumus and coming back to ask him is he ready for death. But there were other ways to accomplish this. And in fact what Posthumus finds when he wakes up could have made the apparition scene unnecessary.

Posthumus wakes up. He finds a book and reads a prophecy from it which fits the plot about to unfold in the play.

The gaoler re-enters

Come sir, are you ready for death?...


I am merrier to die than thou art to live.

Enter messenger.

Knock off his manacles; bring your prisoner to the king.


Britain. Cymbeline's tent.

Enter Cymbeline, Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, Pisanio, Lords, officers and attendants.


Stand by my side, you whom the gods have made

Preservers of my throne. Woe is my heart

That the poor soldier that so richly fought,

...cannot be found.

Cymbeline creates all three

companions to our person, and will fit you

with dignities becoming to your estates.

Enter Cornelius and ladies


To sour your happiness I must report

the Queen is dead...

Cymbeline asks could no physician save her.

How ended she?


With horror, madly dying, like her life,

...First, she confess'd she never lov'd you...

Abhorr'd your person.

Your daughter... she did confess

Was as a scorpion to her sight, whose life,

But that flight prevented it, she had

Ta'en off by poison.

Cornelius tells Cymbeline she planned to give him a wasting medicine so that he'd die slowly while she wept and kissed him and replaced him with her son.

Enter Lucius, Iachimo, the soothsayer, other Roman prisoners, guarded, Posthumus behind, and Imogen.

Cymbeline says you don't come for tribute now.

Lucius replies 'the chance of war.'

We wouldn't have threatened our prisoners with the sword.

... This one thing only

I will entreat: my boy, a Briton born,

Let him be ransom'd. Never master had

A page so kind, so duteous, diligent..'. (etc.)


I have surely seen him:

His favour is familiar to me...

Live, boy...

And ask of Cymbeline what boon thou wilt,

Fitting my bounty and thy state, I'll give it;

Lucius says I know it will be to beg for my life.


No, No, Alack,

There's other work in hand, - your life, good master

must shuffle for itself.

She asks Cymbeline to speak with her privately. They do so.

Pisanio recognizes Fidele as his mistress.

Belarius and his sons begin to think it's Fidele.

Cymbeline then asks Iachimo to step forward and answer the boy or be tortured.

Imogen: My boon is that this gentleman may render

Of whom he had this ring.

Iachimo admits the ring belonged to Posthumus

...the best of all

Amongst the rar'st of good ones

Iachimo describes how the wager arose, and how he deceived Posthumus into thinking his wife unchaste

Posthumus steps forward and calls him a fiend. He ends by saying he ordered Imogen killed and it was done -

...every villain

Be call'd Posthumus Leonatus, and

be villainy less than 'twas. O Imogen!

My Queen, my life, my wife! O Imogen...


Peace, my Lord. Hear, hear!


thou scornful page,

There lies thy part

He strikes her, she falls

Pisanio intervenes

O my Lord Posthumus

You ne'er kill'd Imogen 'till now, ...

Imogen revives, tells Pisanio

O, get thee from my sight;

Thou gav'st me poison.

Pisanio says he thought it was a precious thing. He got it from the Queen.

Imogen: It poisoned me.

Cornelius says he left out one thing which the Queen confess'd

'if Pisanio have,' said she,

given his mistress that confection

Which I gave him for cordial, she is serv'd

As I would serve a rat.

Cornelius says the Queen 'very oft importun'd me' to give her poisons to kill cats and dogs, but, dreading her real purpose what he actually gave her made one appear dead, but recover later. He asked Imogen. Have you taken it?

Imogen: Most like I did, for I was dead.

She and Posthumus embrace.

Belarius tells Guiderius and Arviragus

though you did love this youth I blame you not.

Cymbeline tells Imogen the Queen is dead and he doesn't know where Cloten is.

Pisanio tells how Cloten planned to kill Posthumus and violate Imogen at Milford Haven. He doesn't know what happened to Cloten.

Guiderius ends the story

I slew him there.

Cymbeline says 'thou art condemned, - and must endure our law.

Thou'rt dead.'

Imogen says she thought the headless man was her Lord (Posthumus).

Belarius tells the king about Belarius.


What of him? He is

A banish'd traitor

Belarius tells the king the story of his bringing up of the king's two sons.

The king turns to Imogen

...O Imogen

Thou hast lost by this a kingdom.


No, my lord,

I have got 2 worlds by't. O my gentle brothers,

You call'd me brother,

When I was but your sister...

Cymbeline comments on the many questions and perplexity of it all

Posthumus tells Cymbeline he fought with Belarius and the king's sons, and vanquished Iachimo. Posthumus tells Iachimo not to kneel before him as he is being given back the ring and bracelet by Iachimo.


Kneel not to me... live,

And deal with others better.

Cymbeline tells Lucius that although the victor

We submit to Caesar...

To pay our wonted tribute, from the which

We were dissuaded by our wicked Queen,...


A Roman and a British ensign wave

Friendly together...

They all leave to sacrifice in gratitude to the gods.

My comments

Who is this unnamed Queen for whom no source has been found? If we're Stratfordians, without a published source to turn to we have no idea where Shakespeare's characters come from, or why many of them are so much alive. We can only assume they are all from the imagination of a genius. But with de Vere as Shakespeare we know who these women are. We know Ophelia and Desdemona are Anne Cecil. We know the relentlessly ambitious Lady Macbeth is probably Lady Burghley, who also gave something to the character of this unnamed Queen, madly ambitious for her son. We know Beatrice was Anne Vavasour. Gertrude was de Vere's mother. But who was Imogen? With de Vere as Shakespeare I think we have an answer. It's Elizabeth Trentham. Imogen is no Ophelia or Anne Cecil. She told Pisanio to obey his master and kill her. She became a boy page. She roughed it with Belarius and her brothers. She was determined to go to Italy to see Posthumus. When Lucius said she would beg for his life, she replied forcefully 'No, No, Alack. There's other work in hand. Your life, good master, must shuffle for itself.'

Imogen may have been a paragon of virtue, but she was competent and practical as well. I suggest with Elizabeth Trentham as the model here, it works both ways. It tells us what de Vere thought of the wife he chose who accepted him in maturity. She in turn brings to life the character of Imogen. They may even have discussed together what Imogen would do and say. And around it all de Vere wove the theme that plagued him all his life - his ill-treatment of Anne Cecil who he came later to realize was innocent of any supposed unfaithfulness, and who bore him a first daughter which was his child.

My conclusion is that the play has a good plot, but is not pithy enough. Some speeches are far too long, others unnecessary, making it Shakespeare's third longest play. I suspect it is not all Shakespeare. It may have been completed by Derby and the family ghosts and Jupiter added in by him. This would tie in with the type of Whitsun pastorals produced at Chester, to which he apparently contributed according to supporters for his candidacy as Shakespeare.

The conventional dating for this play we found was unsubstantiated, the source material was all available to de Vere, and we found nothing in the play itself to deny de Vere its authorship. But we did notice a reference to a significant event in his life - the tennis court incident with Sidney, De Vere still remains a candidate for Shakespeare.

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