Cymbeline | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline | Act 4, Scene 3 | Summary



At the palace, Cymbeline is beset with problems, including the illness and apparent insanity of his queen whose son has disappeared. Imogen also has not returned. He is alone, and the Roman army is approaching. Cymbeline questions Pisanio about Imogen's location, and while Pisanio declares his loyalty to the king he feigns ignorance. Cymbeline leaves to prepare to meet the Romans in battle. Pisanio, alone, is unsure about why he has not heard from Posthumus or Imogen, but he realizes their fate is out of his hands.


As expected, Cymbeline is not really up to the task of war with Rome, and he is without his usual supports: the queen and Cloten, who encourage Cymbeline to be aggressive, and Imogen, in whom the king used to take comfort. As the Roman army approaches—with both the gentry and some accompanying legions of soldiers—Cymbeline is in an agitated state.

Pisanio continues to manifest his strange mixture of deception and loyalty in this scene, as he professes loyalty to the king—"Beseech your / Highness, / Hold me your loyal servant"—while vehemently denying any knowledge of Imogen's whereabouts. He ends the scene with a soliloquy in which he admits that despite all his maneuvering, the fates of Imogen and the others are out of his control. He describes his unique perspective: "Wherein I am false I am honest; not true, to be true." Then he says, hopefully, "Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered."

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