Cymbeline | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary



As the battle rages, the disguised Posthumus fights with Iachimo, defeating Iachimo and confiscating his weapon. Iachimo feels guilty for his deception, assuming the heavens and his guilt have made his fighting poor. The Roman army does well at first, capturing Cymbeline, but Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, and Posthumus rescue the king. Now motivated, the British soldiers are reinvigorated and the battle begins to turn in Britain's favor.


The battle rages, and important meetings occur without characters' understanding their full meaning. The audience, if it has been keeping track of all the true identities and disguises, is alone in understanding the full picture.

The confrontation between Posthumus and Iachimo, which takes place without dialogue, reminds the audience of the unresolved conflict between the two. It is primarily Iachimo who is responsible for Posthumus's troubles. That Posthumus "vanquisheth and disarmeth Iachimo" suggests Posthumus will also come out the victor in a future showdown. The short battle is followed by a soliloquy in which Iachimo repents of his actions toward Imogen, which he now believes have been counted against him by the gods, since a simple "drudge" (Posthumus, disguised as a peasant) was able to defeat him. (Of course, in another instance of dramatic irony, his vanquisher is actually a nobleman.)

In a similarly meaningful event, Cymbeline is rescued by his own sons, whom he does not know. Without knowing they are princes, the princes turn the tide of the battle in favor of the Britons, foreshadowing not just a military victory but the righting of a kingdom that has, until now, gone astray with its lack of heirs, evil queen, and deceived king.

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