Cymbeline | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Cymbeline Study Guide." April 2, 2018. Accessed November 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Cymbeline/.

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Course Hero, "Cymbeline Study Guide," April 2, 2018, accessed November 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Cymbeline/.

Cymbeline | Act 1, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

At the palace, Pisanio tells Imogen that Posthumus repeatedly declared his love for Imogen as he left on the ship for Rome. He repeatedly kissed his handkerchief and said "my queen." She imagines all the romantic things she might have said to him had there been time and asks Pisanio to perform some task for her, though the nature of the task is not revealed.

Analysis

This scene, in which Posthumus's servant Pisanio must relay the details of Posthumus's departure from Britain, is made more poignant by emphasizing that Posthumus and Imogen were not able to say satisfactory final farewells. Not only was Imogen and Posthumus's farewell ruined by the arrival of Cymbeline—a fact Imogen laments here—but also she herself was not at his final moment of departure.

In addition, Pisanio's description of Posthumus kissing his handkerchief is touching—perhaps even a bit sentimental. Although the love tokens exchanged by Posthumus and Imogen—the ring and the bracelet—are the main symbols of their relationship, the handkerchief could be seen as representing their relationship as well. Readers familiar with Othello will note the parallels suggested by the handkerchief. In Othello a handkerchief comes to represent, for Othello, Desdemona's fidelity to him, and her loss of it represents her betrayal. In this play Posthumus will, like Othello, believe in his wife's infidelity even when it does not exist. And Imogen and Desdemona are among the most virtuous and innocent of Shakespeare's female characters.

This scene also establishes the relationship between Imogen and Pisanio—a relationship of trust and loyalty that will last throughout the play. Imogen trusts Pisanio to do something for her—"those things I bid you do"—and he assures her he will.

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