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Cymbeline

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  3,616 ratings  ·  187 reviews

This is the first new, full-scale edition of Cymbeline in 37 years. One of Shakespeare's final works, Cymbeline uses virtuoso theatrical and poetic means to dramatize a story of marriage imperiled by mistrust and painfully rebuilt in the context of international conflict. Roger Warren's commentary emphasizes the play's theatrical impact and pays close attention to its comp

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Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 30th 1965 by Penguin Classics (first published 1623)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bill  Kerwin

I've read this play three times, and I've found that the longer the time that has elapsed since I last read it, the better I imagine it to be. In theory, it's a great play: the political situation, involving the tribute an emerging British nation must pay to a "Roman" empire has interesting Jacobean parallels; the theological implications, the way Shakespeare finds a place for compassion in the merciless world of Lear's gods and flies, is instructive and attractive; and the cavalier manner in wh
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Corbin
Imagine that characters from previous plays have ganged up on Shakespeare and threatened to sue him for libel--clearly, they would never behave in the way he suggests. They demand the real story be told. He offers a compromise: rather than go to the trouble and expense of rewrites and retractions, he will write a special play, just for them, and not interfere at all in the execution of plot. In fact, the deus ex machina gets to be a character too, since it was threatening to report him to OSHA o ...more
Rick
Lesser Shakespeare is still great poetry, wonderful dialogue and imaginative set pieces and very entertaining. Cymbeline has more improbable elements than several Shakespeare plays combined, including divine intervention, a woman disguised as a man, royal sons thought dead, a father who forbids his daughter to wed a worthy man whom she loves so she might marry an unworthy man she loathes, an evil step-mother, a naïve wager to test true love, a sister stumbling into the care and immediate affecti ...more
Lucy
Cymbeline is my favorite Shakespeare play. And I love Shakespeare, so that’s saying a lot. Really, what isn’t there to like in this Romance? It’s got star-crossed lovers, poison, war, cross-dressing, swordfighting, mistaken identities, a headless corpse, deaths, reunions, and some of the best and funniest lines Shakespeare ever wrote. Oh, not to mention the actual Deus Ex Machina. Does it get any better than that? No, I do not think it does.
Jake
Cymbeline is a play named after a character who doesn't deserve to have a play named after him. Granted, Cymbeline has the most elegant and poetic name of any of the characters in the play. But who gives a damn what Cymbeline thinks? Answer: pretty much nobody else in the play. You might as well rename Romeo and Juliet after that Paris guy.

Okay, with that out of my system I will simply say that I enjoyed most of this play. Cymbeline has a lot of the well-tested devices audiences expect from a
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Shrimpshrub
The complete rejection of any pretense of plausability has a long and beautiful history.
Chris
Well written but disturbingly misogynistic. Things start badly with Princess Imogen punished for falling in love with Leonatus -- who is also nominally punished, but it sounds more like a European vacation. They get much worse when he gambles on her virtue, and again when a friend of Leonatus invades Imogen's room, robs her, and then lies about having sex with her. Leonatus orders Imogen killed.

Then everybody goes crazy and Cymbeline begins a pointless war against Rome. Leonatus feels remorse fo
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Ben Dutton
Cymbeline is a strange thing – it has many fans: hell, Tennyson had it buried with him! It has its detractors. It is something of a difficult play, for it is a complex beast, seemingly made up of parts of Shakespeare’s earlier works (switched identities here, faked deaths there), and glides between comedy and tragedy.

It is one of those works that I suspect improves upon a second reading. I’ve read it only once and it seemed there was so much going on, and such a vast cast of characters, subplot
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H
Perchance I see why E. Bishop favored this tragedy, which is kinda modern in its happy ending ("Nobly doom'd!" V.v.420). Imogen, unlike Desdemona or Hermione, responds to charges against her virtue with indignation, without simpering, for her vision is so taken by Leonatus that

I see before me, man; nor here, nor here,
Nor what ensues, but have a fog in them,
That I cannot look through. (III.ii.77-9)

and her ethical foundations are in the sanctity of his being: "The scriptures of the loyal Leonatus
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Jade Heslin
This was actually a re-reading as I didn’t have time to fully enjoy this story when I was writing uni essays on it. Yuk.

Cymbeline is severely underrated and should be amongst Shakey’s most famous works. The characters are compelling, the storyline gripping and the language beautiful.
First of all take, Imogen –One of my favourite Shakepearean heroines – gutsy and bold, she dishonours her father (the King) by marrying the lowly Posthumous. Daddy finds out about this and goes mental, exiling Posthu
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Rachel Jackson
Cymbeline has a little of everything: strained familial relations, a bizarre love triangle, disguise and deceit and a war to top it all off. None of those things are particularly rare in a Shakespeare play, but the pace at which all of these things are introduced, complicated and resolved is so fast that none of them gets a chance to really develop long enough. Having read it only once thus far, I imagine it will be easier to understand everything the second and subsequent read-throughs.

Cymbelin
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Ben
Jealousy, deception, disguises, romance. The work has elements similar to many Shakespearean comedies, and to tragedies, like "Othello." But it is not really a tragedy so much as a romance. Like Desdemona in Othello, Imogen unfairly earns the wrath of Posthumus, but, unlike Othello, Posthumus orders Imogen killed rather than doing the wretched deed himself. Posthumus' servant Pisanio, rather than taking Imogen's life as he is ordered, warns her and directs her to safety. The play, unlike most Sh ...more
matt


I really enjoyed this one. I actually explained about half the plot to some of my co-workers (they asked! I swear!) and managed to interest them to the extent that they started to lean imperceptibly forward and start staring at a distant hole in the floor and nod, grunting little affirmative sounds of recognition as I laid out most of act 2 and 3...the important stuff, anyway. I ain't no freak.

I picked it up on whim because it wasn't one of Billy Shakes' more well-known texts and nobody really
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Kevin
"Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, cen
...more
Shana
I'd never read or seen this play before, so I did the former in preparation for the latter. The language is more complex than most of his other plays, and it's not just the words and conventions over the centuries but the grammar and syntax as well. That plus the vignette-like treatment of the plot made me wonder if this late play of his was really a piece of juvenilia that he refashioned in later life. The structure of the play did kind of remind me of Marlowe's plays.

I have to say that I enjoy
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TAB
Never have I been more terrified after two acts of this play. It's not a comedy, it's not a tragedy, so by that point I had no idea whether shit was gonna turn out all right or if everyone was gonna die. Suffice to say, I liked the twists and turns and how Posthumous adopts a 'Timon of Athen' like air towards the end after some much needed introspection and guilt.

_________________

Still a great play; felt the end was more drawn out than last read a bit like the tempest but not quite that painful.
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Dan
Cymbeline is known as one of the "problem plays." It was classed as a tragedy in the First Folio and generally continues to be classed that way, but it's really defined by the way it bends genre. Like a History, it takes it's name for the King even though he doesn't play the lead role and is set in England (although the pagan England of Lear). Like a Comedy, it includes cross-dressing and mistaken identity and has three major concurrent narratives that reconcile at the end with a body count of o ...more
Salvatore
Maybe he's born with it; maybe it's Cymbeline.

This play is so ridiculous at the end that it's great. A true Deus ex machina, which also happens in Pericles, lets us know that this isn't going to be that much of a tragedy in the end, that everyone who was right will be righted, no matter what Cymbeline, King of Britain, did to him in the past. Your standard tropes apply: crossdressing women, mistaken deaths (Imogen echoes Juliet quite a bit here), evil murderous plots to prove against true love,
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Nick Smith
This is a bit of a mess stylistically, and sometimes I feel like Shakespeare himself must have gotten lost in the twists and turns of the language. Nevertheless, fun and involving characters buoy the sloppy plot, and the final revelation scene is so ridiculous as to lap itself and become awesome. Plus there's totally a headless corpse onstage for like twenty minutes.
Juliette
All's well that ends well? I suppose, but, although I enjoyed the soap-opera silliness of the fifth act, I can't rate this any higher. I almost quit reading during the first act because Shakespeare was dead-set on raking Imogen (a paragon of pure femininity) over coals. She is punished at every turn: her husband is banished, her husband bets on her fidelity, she is spied on while napping naked . . . . that's just the first act, and it just kept going!
Normally, I dislike perfect heroines, but Imo
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Alexandra Roma
Usually, for me, reading Shakespeare is kind of difficult. I can read it and enjoy it and have some base understanding of "okay this happened, then this happened, then this happened." But it's not until I see the play that it really clicks for me. Cymbeline was the opposite of that. I never really got lost in it, I caught the little jokes and references throughout and just thoroughly enjoyed it. If not one of my favorite Shakespeare plays at all, it's certainly my favorite to read. Okay, the Pos ...more
Liza Palmer
So Cymbeline is like if Shakespeare said, "Fuck it, just put errrrthing in this bitch."

We've got: star crossed lovers (romeo and juliet), separated and then misled lovers (troilus and cressida), fake poisons (so many), evil step mothers/unreleased women who mess with people (lady macbeth, etc...), bets between friends about their lady's virtue (merchant of venice adjacent), there are envious lovers who believe shit about their beloveds for no good reason (othello), mistaken identities (all) and
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Jaime
The tragedy with the romcom ending.

Random notes:
A toast to all the Imogens in the world, even if their real name is Innogen. (See: Julia Stiles/Freddie Prinze Jr. film Down to You.)

I love that George Bernard Shaw rewrote the ending; what a 20th century thing to do.
James
Cymbeline is not one of the histories, although Frank Kermode describes it as "a sort of history play with a romance plot mixed in." I read it in preparation for seeing it performed this weekend (apparently, there'll be a movie out this year, as well). I think, before I read it, it was the Shakespeare play (with the possible exception of Pericles, Prince of Tyre) of which I was least aware. Having grown up in a town that has hosted an annual Shakespeare festival since the Depression, I have had ...more
sologdin
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Melissa (ladybug)
I guess I am going to have to read Shakespeare several times and possibly even see some plays, because I do not remember anything about the plot or the plays. :(
Thefirstchibi
I felt like this one really dragged on until Act Three, when it picked up and became interesting. Maybe it's because I didn't particularly like any characters in this, it also could be because I'm working my way through the plays and finding the plot devices convoluted and over-done.

But I have disliked most characters before and, despite being used to the formulaic writing, have still been gripped by the story. But Act Three did pick up and it became somewhat enjoyable. Better than some of Shak
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Ray
Feb 14, 2010 Ray rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shakespeare fans
Shelves: drama, shakespeare
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
§--
The poetry is great but the plot is ludicrous -- what are the odds that her long lost brothers just happen to be at the place where she is to meet Posthumus? Did Posthumus somehow know this and plan on it? We're given no reason to think so. Also, it seems that Jupiter's descending to earth was not a dream sequence after all, since Posthumus bears the marks of it in the final scene.

Also, the queen just killed herself randomly? This is what caused peace between Rome and Britain? The stories don't
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Jimyanni
This play is somewhat hard to categorize; I don't think it actually qualifies as a "history", any more than "Hamlet" is. It certainly isn't a tragedy; the ending is largely a happy one, but unlike typical Shakespearian comedies, there is little of the double-entendre and rude wordplay that we usually see, plus the villains of the piece actually are not alive and reformed at the end of the play.

But however you categorize it, it is an interesting and well-written play. It has similarities to Romeo
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947
William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been tr ...more
More about William Shakespeare...
Romeo and Juliet Hamlet Macbeth A Midsummer Night's Dream Othello

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“Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o' the great;
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke:
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan;
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have;
And renownéd be thy grave!”
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“Hang there like a fruit, my soul, Till the tree die!

-Posthumus Leonatus
Act V, Scene V”
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More quotes…