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Cymbeline

Written: c. 1610; Text: First Folio 1623 (Tragedy); no quarto editions
Sources: Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587); William Baldwin ed). The Mirror for Magistrates (1559 ed.); Frederyke of Jennen 3rd ed., (1560); The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune (performed 158, printed 1589); Boccaccio, Giovanni (1313-75). Decameron 2nd Day, 9th story
Characters: Imogen, Posthumus Leonatus, Jachino, Belarus, Cymbeline, Pisano, Queen, Guiderius, Flotten, Arviragus, Caius Lucius
Setting: Mythic Pre-Christian Britain and Italy
Time: AD 16

Written late in Shakespeare's career, around 1610 or 1611, Cymbeline is included in the tragedies of the First Folio, which is odd. The play ends with no deaths, the lovers are happily reunited, and the only characters to die during the course of the play are far from tragic figures, let alone main characters. But it does not neatly fit into the comedies either. There is only one love interest and they are married before the play begins. While there is some humor, there is not much more than what might be found in a tragedy. Nor does it fit clearly among the histories. While there is some historical evidence of an English monarch named Cymbeline, he is not the major character in this play, and there is little or no historical evidence for the characters who do engage our interest. While Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar are mentioned in the play, neither one appears so it does not belong among Shakespeare's Roman plays. This is why some scholars consider it a problem play, an experimental play, or a romance. Perhaps the Folio's editors/publishers placed it among the tragedies after Antony and Cleopatra because it follows that story, decades later, in chronological order.

Town and Country

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In Cymbeline, Belarius advises his two adoptive sons to embrace the idyllic life in the country rather than the political life at court:

“O, this life
Is nobler than attending for a check;
Richer than doing nothing for a bable;
Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk:
Such gain the cap of him that makes him fine,
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Love and Water

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The Comedy of Error’s concluding dialogue between Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse neatly ties up an underlying theme of this farce, that true love — brotherly, marital or other — renders the lovers indistinguishable, “Methinks you are my glass, and not my brother.” But this metaphor of the mirror at the end of the play is a shift from the similes of drops of water that recurred previously.
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Sir, as I told you always

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Sir, as I told you always; her beauty and her brain go not together. She’s a good sign, but I have seen small reflection of her wit.
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 14

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O Dissembling courtesy!

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O
Dissembling courtesy! How fine this tyrant
Can tickle where she wounds!
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 83

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Thither write, my queen

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Thither write, my queen,
And with mine eyes I’ll drink the words you send,
Though ink be made of gall.
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 99

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That such a crafty devil as is his mother

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That such a crafty devil as is his mother
Should yield the world this ass! A woman that
Bears all down with her brain, and this her son
Cannot take two from twenty, for his heart,
And leave eighteen. Alas, poor Princess,
Thou divine Imogen, what thou endur’st,
Betwixt a father by thy step-dame govern’d,
A mother hourly coining plots,
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Act 2
Scene 1
Line 27

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I would this music would come

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Cloten
I would this music would come. I am advised
to give her music a-mornings; they say it will
penetrate.

Enter Musicians.

Come on, tune. If you can penetrate her with your
fingering, so. We’ll try with tongue, too. If none
will do, let her remain, but I’ll never give o’er. First,
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Act 2
Scene 3
Line 10

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‘Tis gold Which buys admittance

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‘Tis gold
Which buys admittance (oft it doth), yea, and makes
Diana’s rangers false themselves, yield up
Their deer to th’ stand o’ th’ stealer; and ’tis gold
Which makes the true man kill’d and saves the thief;
Nay, sometime hangs both thief and true man. What
Can it not do, and undo?
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Act 2
Scene 3
Line 48

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Now for our mountain sport: up to yond hill

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Belarius
Now for our mountain sport: up to yond hill,
Your legs are young; I’ll tread these flats. Consider,
When you above perceive me like a crow,
That it is place which lessens and sets off,
And you may then revolve what tales I have told you
Of courts, of princes, of the tricks in war.
This service is not service,
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Act 3
Scene 3
Line 10

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Town and Country

I love and hate her; for she’s fair and royal

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I love and hate her; for she’s fair and royal,
And that she hath all courtly parts more exquisite
Than lady, ladies, woman, from every one
The best she hath, and she, of all compounded,
Outsells them all. I love her therefore, but
Disdaining me and throwing favors on
The low Posthumus slanders so her judgment
That what’s else rare is chok’d;
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Act 3
Scene 5
Line 71

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I see a man’s life is a tedious one

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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. I should be sick
But that my resolution helps me. Milford,
When from the mountain top Pisanio showed thee,
Thou wast within a ken. O Jove, I think
Foundations fly the wretched—such, I mean,
Where they should be relieved.
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Act 3
Scene 6
Line 1

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Plenty and peace breeds cowards

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Plenty and peace breeds cowards; hardness ever
Of hardiness is mother.
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Act 3
Scene 6
Line 21

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