Cymbeline | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Cymbeline | Symbols


Ring and Bracelet

After Posthumus is banished by Cymbeline for marrying Imogen, Imogen and Posthumus exchange jewelry. Imogen gives Posthumus a diamond ring. Posthumus gives Imogen a bracelet. These items of jewelry are tokens that symbolize the love between the two. When they must be apart, the tokens will remind each of the other's love. Unfortunately, these tokens become caught up in Iachimo's cruel wager. The diamond ring is what he will win from Posthumus if he succeeds in seducing Imogen. The bracelet, stolen by Iachimo from Imogen's bedchamber, is one of the proofs Iachimo provides to Posthumus to show he won the bet. As a result, the tokens meant to symbolize the love of Posthumus and Imogen come to symbolize instead the rift between them and the unreliability of appearances.


When Posthumus departs Britain's shore, he is seen repeatedly kissing his handkerchief, presumably longing for the kiss of Imogen, his beloved. Imogen, hearing of this, laments she is not the handkerchief. And so it becomes a symbol of their separation. It makes only a brief appearance, but it is noticeable partially because of the important role played by a handkerchief in Othello, a play that contains many of the same plot and character elements as the story of Imogen, Iachimo, and Posthumus in Cymbeline.

Bloody Cloth

When Pisanio needs to convince Posthumus he has killed Imogen, he sends Posthumus a bloody cloth. It is stained with the blood of an animal, not a human, but Posthumus is convinced. Later, after Posthumus has a change of heart about his actions, he still carries the bloody cloth. For him it becomes a symbol and reminder of his terrible, sinful actions: "Yea, bloody cloth, I'll keep thee, for I wished / Thou shouldst be colored thus" (Act 5, Scene 1).

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