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 thinks that her husband is dead.
The queen, the second wife of Cymbeline, whom she deceives and manages. The typical stepmother of folktales, she endeavors to destroy Imogen with a supposed restorative that she has poisoned. She is largely responsible for the strife between Rome and England. She dies before her villainies are discovered, but they are exposed after her death.
Iachimo (YAH-kih-moh), an Italian villain. Irritated by Posthumus’ praise of Imogen, he wagers that he can seduce her. After he fails in his attempt, he hides in a trunk that is conveyed into her room, observes her sleeping, steals a bracelet from her, and memorizes her bedroom furnishings. With this circumstantial evidence and sworn lies, he deceives Posthumus. He becomes remorseful, and when captured by Cymbeline’s forces and questioned by Fidele/Imogen, he confesses all, repents, and is included in the general forgiveness.
Belarius (beh-LAY-ree-uhs), a banished lord, disguised as Morgan. Having been unjustly accused of treason, he has kidnapped the sons of Cymbeline and has reared them in a Welsh forest as his own sons. When Rome sends forces against England, he and the two youths come to the aid of the English forces. He discloses the identity of the young men to Cymbeline and receives forgiveness in the general rejoicing.
Guiderius (gwih-DEE -ree-uhs), who is living in the forest as Polydore but is the elder son of Cymbeline. Although rough and untutored, he has a bold and royal nature. After his heroic deeds in the battle, he confesses to Cymbeline that he has killed Cloten and that he would be delighted to do so again if Cloten were still alive. He is condemned to death by Cymbeline but is...
(The entire section is 906 words.)