Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Gullible Cymbeline and his conniving queen intend that his daughter Imogen should marry his stepson Cloten. Instead, Imogen chooses the gentle Posthumus and secretly marries him. In a fit of anger, the king banishes Posthumus, who flees to Italy after promising to remain loyal and faithful to his bride. As a token of their vows, Imogen gives Posthumus a diamond ring that belonged to her mother; in turn, Posthumus places a bracelet of rare design on Imogen’s arm.
In Rome, Posthumus meets Iachimo, a vain braggart who tries to tempt Posthumus by appealing to his sensuality. Posthumus, not to be tempted into adultery, tells Iachimo of his pact with Imogen and of the ring and bracelet they exchanged. Iachimo scoffingly wagers ten thousand ducats against Posthumus’s ring that he can seduce Imogen.
Iachimo goes to Britain with letters to which he forged Posthumus’s name, which persuades Imogen to receive him. Using ambiguous implications and innuendo, Iachimo plays on her curiosity about her husband’s faithfulness. When that fails to win her favor, he gains access to her bedroom in a trunk which, he tells her, contains a valuable gift he bought in France that is intended for the Roman emperor; he asks that the trunk be placed in her chamber for safekeeping. While Imogen sleeps, he notes the details of the furnishings in the room, takes the bracelet from her arm, and observes a mole on her left breast.
Back in Italy, Iachimo...
(The entire section is 1216 words.)
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Cymbeline, the king of Britain, has a daughter Imogen from a former marriage. His new queen wants Imogen to marry her son Cloten, also from a former marriage. But Imogen instead marries Posthumus Leonatus, a man very much admired for his courage and his intelligence. Cymbeline banishes Posthumus and confines Imogen to the management of the queen. Just before Posthumus leaves England for the home of Philarius in Italy, the queen allows the couple a few moments to say goodbye. She then informs Cymbeline of their whereabouts, and the displeased king surprises the couple and chases Posthumus away. Posthumus and Imogen only have time to exchange tokens. He gives her a bracelet, and she gives him a diamond ring. Posthumus leaves his servant Pisanio in England to act as a liaison between himself and Imogen. Pisanio enters and reports that Cloten has assaulted Posthumus as the latter made his way to the departing ship, nothing coming of the engagement because Posthumus did not take Cloten seriously. Meanwhile, Doctor Cornelius gives the queen what she thinks are deadly poisons, the queen offering that she will use the poisons on small animals to study the effects and formulate antidotes. Doctor Cornelius does not trust her and has given her potions that will only incapacitate the taker, leaving him refreshed when the effects wear off. The queen hands the drug to Pisanio, telling him it is an effective restorative, hoping he will poison himself. She then...
(The entire section is 1997 words.)