Cymbeline | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline | Act 5, Scene 3 | Summary



Posthumus, still dressed as a Briton soldier, discusses the battle with a Briton lord. Posthumus tells him an old man and two young men heroically turned the battle around, giving Britain the victory. Posthumus, still hoping for death, decides to put on his Roman clothes again so the British will kill him. Two British captains arrive and discuss the battle. They, too, note how the old man and his sons helped the British win. They also note how a fourth man also helped gain the victory. Posthumus reveals his presence (and identifies himself as a Roman), and they take him prisoner. Cymbeline orders the Roman prisoners taken to prison.


Since it is difficult to stage large battle scenes, Shakespeare often provides descriptions of battles that took place elsewhere by having characters discuss the details. In this scene the battle is described in more than one conversation, each time from a slightly different perspective. The first description is Posthumus's, and he describes an "ancient soldier" and two "striplings" who helped turn the battle around. He doesn't mention his own part in the battle. But when the captains come in, they refer to a "fourth man" in rustic clothing who also fought alongside the old man and the two boys. This, of course, is Posthumus, who throughout the course of this scene has changed his clothing back to Roman clothing and been taken prisoner.

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