Cymbeline | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline | Act 3, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Back at the king's palace, Caius Lucius takes his leave. Cymbeline wonders where Imogen is and sends a servant to find her. Imogen proves to be gone, which makes the queen secretly happy. Cloten runs into Pisanio—who has just returned—and says he will kill him if he does not reveal where Imogen has gone. Pisanio, afraid of Cloten and believing Imogen to be far away and well hidden, shows Cloten the letter from Posthumus saying he will meet Imogen at Milford Haven. Cloten decides to go to Milford Haven to confront Imogen and Posthumus. He has Pisanio bring him some of Posthumus's clothes, then reveals his plan to the audience: He will disguise himself as Posthumus, confront Imogen about her disrespect toward him, kill Posthumus while Imogen watches, then rape Imogen. After Pisanio returns with the clothes, Cloten leaves to execute his plan. Left alone, Pisanio reveals his own plan. He will feign obedience to Cloten while really helping Imogen.

Analysis

Cloten's plan is thoroughly reprehensible but strangely parallel to Imogen's own plot arc. Imogen is in disguise in a man's clothes, and now Cloten will go disguised in another man's clothes. It is interesting that Imogen's own remark about having more respect for Posthumus's clothes than for Cloten is a key element in Cloten's plan. He plans to turn her insult into his own revenge by raping her while wearing her husband's clothing. It's a petty plan for a petty villain.

Pisanio's loyalty is again at the fore of the scene, as he now plans to use deception to convince Cloten of his loyalty while really remaining loyal to Imogen and Posthumus. Again, he is going to use deception for good while Cloten only uses it for evil. The theme of appearance versus reality is developed by the various people in disguise, but also by Pisanio's various deceptions. He makes it appear Imogen is dead to please Posthumus, but in reality she is alive. He appears loyal to Cloten, but his real allegiance is elsewhere.

This scene also shows the queen's ambition and thirst for power, as she reveals the full range of her hopes to the audience: Imogen gone or dead, Pisanio dead, Cloten the king's heir, and Cymbeline dead. These admissions foreshadow her full deathbed confession, related in the final scene of the play.

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