Cymbeline minimized

This fantasy legend features a British king with three children by a former queen, two boys and a girl, the baby boys having been “stolen” twenty years ago, the sweetheart of a daughter newly married, and a new queen with a son by her former husband, the queen and her son being just awful, the story being among Shakespeare’s most emotional.

1. Cymbeline, the king, enormously influenced by the queen, banishes his daughter Imogen’s husband Posthumus to Rome, the queen irritated that Imogen didn’t marry her lightweight son, Cloten.  Inexplicably, in Rome, Posthumus allows Iachimo, an Italian Lothario, to challenge him with a bet that Imogen is unfaithful.  In London, Iachimo fails to seduce Imogen, but gains her confidence.  She agrees to keep a trunk of his in her room that night.

2. Having hidden himself in the trunk, Iachimo slips out after she has fallen asleep, remembers what he sees, and carefully takes the wedding bracelet from her arm.  Cloten tries to woo Imogen, but she says her husband’s “most worthless garment” means more to her than he does. We learn Rome wants its war reparations from the time of Julius Caesar paid.  Cymbeline refuses to pay. War is inevitable. Iachimo returns to Rome with the bracelet and visual evidence.  Posthumus accepts defeat, handing his ring over to him. 

3. Through a letter, Posthumus instructs Pisano, his aide, to kill Imogen.  He instructs Imogen through another letter to meet him in Milford Haven, Wales.  Pisanio tells Imogen all.  She wants him to kill her. He suggests he masquerade as a boy.  She agrees. He returns to London. Roman troops land at Milford, some led by Iachimo. Imogen (as Fidele) gets lost and enters a cave occupied by a man and two boys.  They treat each other beautifully.

4. Cloten shows up at the cave, dressed in Posthumus’ garments.  He loses his head in a fight with the older boy, Guiderius.  His headless body is laid aside. The men believe a very sick Imogen (as Fidele) has died.  They place her body next to Cloten’s. Roman troops, led by Lucius, see her.  She awakens and handles herself so well that Lucius hires her as his aide.  The father and his boys hear the Romans. The boys like the idea of fighting them, looking for action and adventure.  Their father joins them. 

5. Posthumus, dressed raggedly as a British peasant, wants to die.  The battle begins.  Cymbeline is captured.  The Briton’s are routed.  The three men (along anonymously with Posthumus) enter the battle as “fresh reinforcements.” The tide turns.  The Romans flee.  Posthumus once again becomes a Roman soldier. Lucius, Iachimo, Posthumus and Fidele are captured and brought to Cymbeline.  Fidele sees Iachimo’s ring and tells the king of her story.  The older son is bound for killing Cloten, a prince.  The father comes forward, letting Cymbeline know that the two boys are the king’s long-lost sons.  All falls into place. Posthumus and Imogen are reunited. Posthumus forgives Iachimo. Cymbeline declares “pardon’s the word to all.”