Cymbeline (SIHM-beh-leen), the king of Britain. On the whole, he is more a conventional figure made to help the plot than a complex human being. Quick-tempered, arbitrary, and unreasonable, he is naturally well-meaning and generous. His second wife influences him far more than he realizes. His forgiveness of his enemies and his son-in-law at the end of the play is an example of his essential goodness.
Imogen (IHM-oh-jehn), Cymbeline’s daughter by his former queen; she is disguised for part of the play as Fidele (fih-DAYL), a boy. She is the most admired character in the play, and many critics believe it has small excuse for being except as a vehicle for her. She is a faithful wife, independent and courageous. She escapes her father’s court, her husband’s plot to have her murdered, her wicked stepbrother’s attempt to violate her, and her evil stepmother’s plot to poison her. Disguised as a boy, she finds her unknown brothers in the forest. She forgives her husband for his lack of trust.
Posthumus Leonatus (POS-tew-muhs lee-oh-NAY-tuhs), Imogen’s husband, a gentleman of good lineage but poor fortune; he is unacceptable to Cymbeline as a son-in-law. Banished for marrying Imogen, he goes to Italy. There, carried away while praising his wife, he makes an unwise wager with the evil Iachimo that his wife’s chastity will withstand any temptation. She lives up to his faith, but Iachimo presents such strong circumstantial evidence that she has been unfaithful that Posthumus sends orders to his servant to kill her. He receives undeserved forgiveness from her and is reunited with her.
Cloten (KLOH-tehn), the queen’s repulsive son. Ignorant and stupid as well as vicious, he clothes himself in Leonatus’ garments and follows Imogen, intending to violate her. He meets and threatens Guiderius, who promptly chops off his head. Finding his headless corpse in the familiar garments, Imogen...
(The entire section is 906 words.)