*Great Britain. Island of which Cymbeline is the king during the reign of Roman emperor Augustus Caesar and which is nominally governed by Rome, thanks to the earlier military incursions of Julius Caesar, whose name is invoked in the verse. Shakespeare deliberately refers to Cymbeline’s realm as “Britain” rather than “England,” which he uses routinely in his medieval history plays. Clearly, Cymbeline’s primitive Britain resembles the pre-Roman Britain of Shakespeare’s earlier King Lear (1606); however, the insistent use of “Britain” may be due, in part, to Shakespeare’s efforts to stress the unity of Great Britain to please his patron, King James I. Whereas Lear portrays disasters ensuing from dividing the kingdom, Cymbeline stresses the importance of the unity of Britain, affirming its sovereignty by a surprising British victory over Rome’s legions as a result of unexpected help given by three warriors from the mountains of Wales.
Lud’s Town. Ancient name of London, which is presumably the site of Cymbeline’s court. The name “Lud’s town” evokes the archaic period in which the play is set, as well as the ancient origin of England’s chief city, supposedly founded as a fortress by King Lud. In the play’s first three acts, the court is tainted by intrigue and favoritism, mainly resulting from the queen’s plotting and the petulant behavior of her spoiled son, Cloten, although the courtiers are mostly decent people who mock Cloten behind his back. While the court seems provincial in contrast to Imperial Rome, its inequalities and injustices...
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