Cymbeline | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline | Quotes


For my sake, wear this. / It is a manacle of love. I'll place it / Upon this fairest prisoner.

Posthumus, Act 1, Scene 1

Posthumus says this as he places a bracelet on Imogen's wrist, likening the bracelet to a manacle and marriage to a prison. This vivid image suggests he has strong feelings about the obligations of marriage, setting the stage for his extreme reaction to the idea that Imogen might have been unfaithful.


It is your fault that I have loved Posthumus. / You bred him as my playfellow, and he ... overbuys me / Almost the sum he pays.

Imogen, Act 1, Scene 1

Imogen accuses her father, Cymbeline, of being responsible for her falling in love with Posthumus, since Cymbeline is the one who took Posthumus in and raised him alongside Imogen. Imogen also speaks highly of Posthumus's character and worth, suggesting Posthumus's value is even greater than her own value.


'Twas a contention ... his to be more fair, virtuous, wise, chaste, / constant, qualified ... than any the rarest of our ladies in France.

Frenchman, Act 1, Scene 4

A Frenchman, talking with Iachimo, recounts a boast made by Posthumus that Imogen was the most virtuous of all ladies in France. Iachimo confronts Posthumus with this boast, asking if he would also say this about the Italian ladies, and Posthumus says yes. Iachimo makes his wager against the boast, extending the language to "any lady in the world."


She is fooled / With a most false effect, and I the truer / So to be false with her.

Cornelius, Act 1, Scene 5

The queen's doctor, Cornelius, knows her to be untrustworthy, and so he decides to deceive her by giving her a sleeping potion instead of poison. In doing so he saves the lives of others, on whom she had intended to use the poison. Cornelius is only one of many deceivers in the play, but like the servant Pisanio his deceptions are for good, not for evil.


That such a crafty devil as is his mother / Should yield the world this ass!

Second lord, Act 2, Scene 1

The second lord continually insults Cloten in asides. As the first lord flatters Cloten, he brags endlessly about his strength, manliness, good looks, and intelligence. Here, the second lord notes how odd Cloten's stupidity is given that his mother (the queen) is extremely intelligent. The second lord follows up this insult by elaborating that Cloten "Cannot take two from twenty, for his heart, / And leave eighteen."


His mean'st garment ... is dearer / In my respect than all the hairs above thee, / Were they all made such men.

Imogen, Act 2, Scene 3

Imogen delivers this grave insult to Cloten after he tries unsuccessfully to woo her with music and insults Posthumus on top of it. She tells him she respects Posthumus's most worthless piece of clothing more than she respects Cloten. But this insult sticks with Cloten and provides the motivation for his plan to murder Posthumus and rape Imogen.


Flattering, hers; deceiving, hers; / Lust and rank thoughts, hers, hers; revenges, hers; ... All faults ... hers, in part or all, but rather all.

Posthumus, Act 2, Scene 5

Posthumus attributes a long list of faults to Imogen, none of which are hers but all of which can be attributed to other characters in the play, such as Iachimo, a deceiver; Cloten, full of lust and rank thoughts; Belarius, who took revenge; and flattering courtiers such as the first lord. That Imogen is accused of all these faults but guilty of none is part of the tragedy of her situation.


You must forget to be a woman; change ... fear and niceness ... into a waggish courage, / Ready in gibes ... quarrelous as the weasel.

Pisanio, Act 3, Scene 4

In contrast with Posthumus, who attributes all manner of bad behavior to women, Pisanio here suggests a list of traits Imogen should take on to pass as a man. While women are fearful and nice, men are waggish, insulting, and eager to start a fight.


I see a man's life is a tedious one. / I have tired myself, and for two nights together / Have made the ground my bed.

Imogen, Act 3, Scene 6

For her part, Imogen has her own opinion of the lot of men as compared to women. After traveling as a man, she seems to long for the soft bed and interesting pastimes of her former life. Yet she bravely persists in her disguise.


I know not why / I love this youth, and I have heard you say / Love's reason's without reason.

Arviragus, Act 4, Scene 2

Both of Imogen's brothers are living under different names in Wales, without any knowledge they are really princes. But they constantly remark on how much they feel brotherly love for the young man Fidele (Imogen in disguise). Arviragus attributes his strange feelings to the proverb "Love is without reason." But the reality is that there is a reason—Arviragus is her brother.


Wherein I am false I am honest; not true, to be true.

Pisanio, Act 4, Scene 3

Pisanio echoes Cornelius's "I the truer / So to be false with her" by stating a similar sentiment. He has lied to everyone about Imogen's situation. He's told Posthumus she is dead and feigned ignorance to Cloten and Cymbeline about where she is. But his personal conviction that what he's done is right comes through strongly.


Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered.

Pisanio, Act 4, Scene 3

Throughout the play, characters pray to the gods. Posthumus even has a vision of and message from Jupiter. Because Pisanio shares this classical Roman perspective, he is willing to commit to fortune both the outcome of his actions and the safety of Imogen. This statement proves prophetic, as in the end Fortune brings all boats to Cymbeline's shore by a number of different means.


I lost my children. / If these be they, I know not how to wish / A pair of worthier sons.

Cymbeline, Act 5, Scene 5

Far from punishing Belarius for his treachery, as might happen in a tragedy, Cymbeline instead forgives him. He even compliments him for doing such a good job raising his sons.


Kneel not to me. / The power that I have on you is to spare you; / The malice towards you to forgive you.

Posthumus, Act 5, Scene 5

Posthumus, who knows now that Iachimo was the source of the lies that nearly led to Imogen's death, forgives him. In one of his most noble moments, he exercised his power by giving mercy, not justice. He follows this act of mercy with some advice for Iachimo: "Live / And deal with others better."


We'll learn our freeness of a son-in-law: / Pardon's the word to all.

Cymbeline, Act 5, Scene 5

Summing up the theme of forgiveness, which manifests most strongly in the final scene, Cymbeline declares pardons all the way around. But this line also shows Cymbeline himself repents of his former treatment of his son-in-law, now holding Posthumus up as an example even a king should follow.

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