Character Directory

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King Cymbeline (d. c. A.D. 40) is the title character of Cymbeline, the king of Britain and father of Imogen. Though Cymbeline is the title character, he is not the dominant character. The title of the play suggests the land he rules, rather than him personally. He is a typical king of fairy-tale and romantic literature. He loses his prosperity when he follows evil advisers, and then recovers it in a traditional happy ending through the workings of a benevolent fate. Influenced by his vicious Queen and her son Cloten, he proceeds unjustly against his innocent daughter and her husband, Posthumus. He loses Imogen as he once lost his sons, by another unjust action, the banishment of Belarius twenty years earlier. Moreover, still under the influence of his wife and stepson, he commits Britain to a foolish war against Rome. However, fate intervenes, and Cymbeline is eventually freed from evil.  The Romans are miraculously defeated by the king's long-lost sons, and Cymbeline recovers his family and survives to be merciful to his enemies at the play's close. 

Cymbeline is a passive figure whose competence as a ruler can only be restored by a happy ending brought about by chance, rather than by himself. On the other hand, his crimes are equally not his own; he is only unintentionally cruel, and though wrongheaded, he is quite willing to admit his folly and accept the mercy of providence. He is a figure from traditional lore who is necessary to the plot but does not contribute to it. His character is not fully developed, and what we see is a feeble store of anger in early scenes, a dumbfounded confusion later on, and a mild exaltation at the end. 

The historical Cymbeline, generally called Cunobelinus, was a powerful ruler among the Celtic tribes of south-east England, but Shakespeare's figure bears virtually no resemblance to him. Shakespeare's source, Holinshed’s Chronicles, was rather vague and inaccurate regarding Cunobelinus' reign, but the playwright did not follow his source particularly closely in any case. The most striking difference is that Rome's invasion—a successful one that established Roman rule in Britain—came several years after Cunobelinus' death. Cunobelinus was among the most successful of England's tribal kings in terms of conquering his neighbors, but little else is known of his reign.


Cloten is the uncouth son of the Queen and the rejected suitor of Imoegen who then plans to rape her and kill her husband, Posthumus. Cloten is a comic villain for the most part. He is a stupid and vainglorious man who inspires bemused contempt, though he has his threatening moments and reminds us of the potential for tragedy that underlies the fairy-tale ambience of much of the play. He is finally killed when he happens, entirely by chance, on the lost prince Guiderius, who handily beheads him and then remarks, 'This Cloten was a fool, an empty purse' (4.2.113). His function is that of a fairy-tale villain whose fate is to be defeated by the hand of providence. 

Cloten's personality and function vary considerably in the course of the play. In Acts 1-2 Cloten is quite simply a boor; a braggart who is mocked by his own companions and by Imogen's Lady. Imogen tells him he is not worth the 'mean'st garment' of Posthumus (2.3.132), and complains that she is 'sprited with a fool' (2.3.138). In Act 3 Cloten takes on a different, less inane, air as he blusters patriotically and helps to commit Britain to a foolish war against Rome. Finally, in Act 4 he is the villain who schemes to kill Posthumus in front of Imogen before he rapes her, and who crassly insults Guiderius for his supposed inferiority.

Such changes make it hard to precisely characterize Cloten's function in the play, and this problem offers a hint of Shakespeare's trouble with the Romances, a new genre in which Cymbeline was an experiment. The irregularities in Cloten's personality are similar to those of the play as a whole, and they betray the playwright's difficulty in melding the realistic characters to which he was accustomed with the ethereal figures required by the romances. Cloten seems to be a compound of several types of writing, created as Shakespeare struggled with the task of generating a new type of character, a villain who must convincingly represent evil without being so real as to intrude on a world of fantasy. Though a faulty character, Cloten foreshadows a much more successful figure of this kind, Caliban of The Tempest

Some scholars have speculated that portions of Cloten's role may have been considerably modified by the actor who played the character, probably Robert Armin. Armin wrote plays and was famous for improvisation, so he was capable of creating additional dialogue. Moreover, in addition to his Shakespearean roles, he specialized in playing a character type of his own devising, a mentally limited Clown who may be reflected in some of Cloten's doltishness. Cloten's speeches are in both prose and verse, and this theory suggests that the prose passages were written—or at least altered in performance, before publication—by Armin. However, though some such alteration could have contaminated the text—if it was based on a Prompt-Book—this idea cannot be proven. More probably the evidence reflects the difficulties mentioned above.


Posthumus is the husband of Imogen. Banished from Britain for secretly marrying the daughter of King Cymbeline, Posthumus goes to Rome. There, he boasts of Imogen's virtues and wagers the diamond ring she has given him that the courtier Iachimo cannot seduce her. Iachimo is unsuccessful, but he deceives Posthumus, who foolishly believes him and vows revenge on Imogen. By letter, he instructs his servant, Pisanio, to murder her. Once he has established the situation that faces Imogen in Acts 3-4, Posthumus disappears from the play until, near the end, he reappears, stricken with guilt over the murder he believes has been committed. He seeks death in battle and fights for Britain against Rome, but he is not killed. He then seeks death as a Roman prisoner of war, but while in captivity he dreams of his family and the god Jupiter, who promises that his story shall end happily. Unaware of this when he awakes, Posthumus appears before the king as a Roman captive, but he reveals himself when lachimo confesses his deception. Posthumus, in his turn, confesses to Imogen's murder before he discovers that she is alive and he is reunited with her. In the aura of reconciliation that closes the play, the king accepts Posthumus as a son-in-law.   

In the course of the play, Posthumus' qualities vary enormously from the ideal to the seriously Hawed. In this respect he offers clues to the difficulties Shakespeare faced when he wrote the Romances, a new genre of plays in which Cymbeline was an experiment. The playwright faced the problem of integrating realistic settings and characters, which he was accustomed to creating, with the ethereal, almost abstract characters of fairy tale and traditional romantic literature on which the romances were based. Posthumus, like other characters in Cymbeline, demonstrates that he was not always successful.

As the play opens, Posthumus is praised by a Gentleman who declares, 'I do not think / so fair an outward, and such stuff within / Endows a man, but he' (1.1.22-24); here, he is simply a traditional romantic prince and a proper mate for Imogen. However, once on his own in Rome he is ludicrously immature, intent on an inflated idea of masculine honour. In 1.5, he, Iachimo, and the Frenchman almost seem to offer a satire on dueling. His wholly unnecessary defense of Imogen's chastity is no less ridiculous than his readiness to disbelieve in it later, and his response is ignoble when he instructs his servant to murder Imogen in revenge. Nevertheless, he is once again the traditional princely hero when he helps the king's long-lost sons, Guiderius and Arviragus, defeat the Romans, and it is certainly to his credit that he comes to regret his earlier actions and feel guilt. However, the basic problem with his character is most evident here. His elaborate attempts at suicide detract from our appreciation of his real personal distress. On one hand, it is difficult to accept Posthumus as a real figure like the victimized Othello, while on the other, he does not provide a bold allegorical representation of human error, like, say, Leontes, of The Winter's Tale. Shakespeare had not yet learned to permit the symbolic to dominate, and Posthumus' human reality interferes with his value as an archetype of jealousy. This makes him a somewhat ridiculous and unsympathetic figure. 

The name Posthumus indicates that its owner was born after his father's death. It is so rare today that it seems intended to convey some extra meaning, perhaps comical. However, though unusual (like the phenomenon it commemorates), the name was regularly given in Shakespeare's day (see, e.g., Thomas Posthumous Hoby).


Belarius is the foster-father of Guiderius and Arviragus. Belarius was unjustly exiled from the court of King Cymbeline many years before the time of the play, and, in revenge, had kidnapped the king's infant sons. He has since raised them in the wilds of Wales. When the Roman army invades Britain, Belarius helps his foster-sons save the British army and the three are honored by the king. However, because Guiderius has killed Prince Cloten, he is threatened with the death sentence prescribed for commoners who kill a prince. Belarius, to save the young man's life, reveals the truth. Though he has exposed himself to capital punishment because he had kidnapped the heir to the throne, Belarius is forgiven by the king in the play's final sequence of mercies and reconciliations. Belarius is a good man, unjustly persecuted, who only recovers his position by accident. He thus embodies an important theme of the play, that man is helpless without the aid of providence. Belarius has taken the name Morgan, but he is designated Belarius in speech headings and stage directions.


Guiderius, like Arviragus, is a simple fairy-tale I figure—a lost prince who is restored to his rightful | position—and his personality is mostly seen in courage and high spirits. However, Shakespeare takes care to distinguish the brothers from each other. As the future heir to the throne, Guiderius is more forceful and dynamic than his reflective brother Arviragus. When they discuss Imogen's virtues, Guiderius proves more practical when he mentions her cooking, while Arviragus praises her singing. When they believe her dead, Guiderius cuts short his brother's 'wench-like words' (4.2.23.) and says, 'Let us bury him, / And not protract with admiration • what / Is now due debt. To th'grave!' (4.2.230-233). ; At his most striking, Guiderius kills Cloten, earlier in the same scene, with soldierly aplomb. He brandishes his victim's head while he remarks, 'This Cloten was a fool, an empty purse' (4.2.113). Later, he declares he will throw the head into the creek 'to tell the fishes he's the queen's son' (4.2.153). In 5.5 he manfully acknowledges that he has killed Cloten despite the threat of capital punishment for killing a prince (he is not yet known to be a prince himself). His 'I have spoke it, and I did it' (5.5.290) has a kingly simplicity and force. Belarius has given Guiderius the name Polydore, and this name is occasionally used in dialogue, but he is designated as Guiderius in speech headings and stage directions.


Arviragus is one of the two kidnapped sons of King Cymbeline. Arviragus and his older brother Guiderius have been raised to be woodsmen and hunters in the wilds of Wales by their foster-father Belarius, who kidnapped them in infancy when he was unjustly exiled by Cymbeline. When their sister Imogen, disguised as a young man, happens onto their cave, the boys immediately love 'him', although they don't know that they are siblings. Like Guiderius, Arviragus is inherently noble and desires to prove himself in the greater world of kingly courts and warfare. When the Romans invade Britain, the brothers have their chance. After they save the British army they are honored by the king, and then, in the extraordinary sequence of revelations and reconciliations in 5.5, they are reunited with their father. 

Both Arviragus and Guiderius are simple fairy-tale figures—lost princes who are eventually discovered and restored to their rightful positions—and they have the princely attributes of courage, sincerity, and high spirits. However, Shakespeare takes care to distinguish them from each other. Arviragus is the more reflective of the two; he also speaks some of the play's best poetry. He responds more strongly to Imogen's beauty, and when Guiderius praises her cooking, the more esthetic Arviragus emphasizes her singing.  When they believe her dead, Arviragus expresses their grief in a lyrical passage (4.2.218-229) that compares her beauty to the flowers. Arviragus also offers an intellectually grounded, if simple, denunciation of money, in 3.7.26-28. Belarius has given Arviragus the name Cadwal, and this name is occasionally used in dialogue, but he is designated as Arviragus in speech headings and stage directions.

PHILARIO Philario Posthumus' host in Rome. In 1.5 the gentlemanly Philario attempts to defuse the argument that leads to Posthumus' fatal wager with Iachimo. In 2.4 when lachimo claims to have won the bet by seducing Imogen, Philario tries to convince the enraged Posthumus not to believe him. He has no success in either endeavor. He thus represents human virtue, a force that promises good in the world but that proves useless in the face of evil. As such, he reinforces the play's theme that humankind is dependent on providence more than on its own efforts.

Iachimo is the villain who pretends to have seduced Posthumus' new wife, Imogen. He thus provokes the murderous jealousy in Posthumus that stimulates much of the action of the play.  Motivated only by an irresponsible pleasure in mischief, lachimo wagers that he can seduce Imogen. When he fails, he resorts to trickery. He secretes himself in her bedroom, steals her bracelet, and then poses as her lover. He flaunts his knowledge of her intimate surroundings and declares the bracelet a gift. His plan accomplished in 2.4, lachimo pockets the diamond ring he has won from Posthumus and disappears from the play until very near its close, when he returns to Britain as a member of the Roman army. He proves unsuccessful in combat, and he supposes that his guilt for blackening Imogen's name has weakened him as a warrior. Captured, he confesses to his crime when the disguised Imogen recognizes on his hand the ring he has won. In the aura of reconciliation that closes the play, he is forgiven by Posthumus. 

Commentators have often compared lachimo to Shakespeare's most extraordinary villain, Iago, whose lies are similar in content. His name, the diminutive of lago, suggests a similarly evil temperament, but Iachimo is a very different sort of villain. He is closer to the likeable Autolycus, the vagabond thief of The Winter's Tale. Iachimo is essentially a stock comic figure, the unscrupulous Italian. He has no intention of destroying anyone's life, as lago does; he barely has any intention at all. He is more like a con man than a rapist, though he compares himself to the genuinely fearful Tarquin. However, he does so just as he has comically emerged like a jack-in-the-box, from a trunk, in 2.2, and such a ludicrous villain assures us that Imogen will not be permanently damaged. This aspect of lachimo is important to the play's generally optimistic tone. We are never in doubt that the world of romance is dominant; lachimo is merely an instrument of fate, which controls the adventures of Posthumus and Imogen. Even in the humiliation of his final exposure, lachimo remains comic. Our awareness of his harmlessness is reinforced as he shamelessly embroiders the truth, apparently hoping to make himself seem a pleasingly audacious young gentleman. Both boastful and apologetic, he seems an entirely appropriate object of mercy—an immature fool. Unlike the other villains of the piece, the Queen and Cloten, mercy is granted to him.


Lucius is the ambassador from Rome to the Britain of King Cymbeline, later the commander of the invading Roman army and the employer of the disguised Imogen. In 3.1 Lucius informs Cymbeline that Rome demands tribute from Britain. When he receives the king's refusal he transmits his government's declaration of war. However, he adds that he regrets this, for he appreciates the hospitality he has received in Britain. His gentlemanly nature is again evident in 3.5, when he departs from the king's court, and we understand why Pisanio recommends that the disguised Imogen become a page for Lucius. He calls the Roman 'honourable, and . . . most holy' (3.4.178-179). In 4.2 Lucius readily offers employ- ment and protection to Imogen. He believes that she is a young man, Fidele, and he takes particular care of 'him' when the Romans are defeated in battle in 5.2. Finally, in 5.5 Lucius nobly faces death at the hands of the victorious Cymbeline, before he receives mercy in the play's final aura of reconciliation. 

Lucius is a noble person who is unable to influence the course of events in the play. He is contrasted with assorted weak, but not evil, figures like Posthumus and the king, and thus he offers a positive image of humanity's need for the intervention of providence. The ancient tradition that a soldier named Lucius was the first Roman converted to Christianity may be reflected in Shakespeare's choice of name for this positive character. Two of Shakespeare's other characters named Lucius are also rightminded and in the military, so these may well be conscious references to the ancient convert, who was still fairly well known in the 17th century.


Pisanio is the faithful servant of Posthumus. When his master is exiled for having married Imogen, King Cymbeline’s daughter, Pisanio remains at court to serve her. He embodies a wellknown figure of folklore and literature: the faithful servant who serves his master best by disobeying him. When Posthumus is deceived by Iachimo and believes that Imogen has betrayed him, he orders Pisanio to murder her. Instead, the servant helps Imogen escape and provides her with a disguise as a page, in which she has further adventures. However, for all his steadfastness and common sense, Pisanio cannot provide further assistance. He loses contact with both Posthumus and Imogen and finds himself under suspicion at court. Fearful and confused, he resigns himself to whatever fate may bring. 'The heavens still must work' and 'Fortune brings in some boats that are not steer'd* (4.3.41, 46), he says. He thus states neatly the play's central lesson: that humanity is dependent on providence.


Cornelius is a physician to the Queen of Britain. In 1.6 Cornelius has provided the Queen with a poison—for experimental purposes, she says—but he informs us in an aside that he distrusts her and has substituted a sleeping potion. Imogen later takes this and is mistaken for dead. Later, in the play's final scene, he recounts the dying Queen's confession (5.5.31-61) and explains again about the poison (5.5.243-258). Cornelius' function is to further the plot and highlight the Queen's evilness.


Captain is an officer in the Roman army. In 4.2 the Captain reports to Lucius that the army has landed in Wales. His six terse lines serve to convey information that moves the plot to a new stage. 

Captain officers in the British army. In 5.3 after the British victory over the Romans that is described by Posthumus earlier in the scene, the Captains discover Posthumus in his Roman uniform and take him prisoner.  They turn him over to King Cymbeline in a Dumbshow that ends the scene. With only a few lines between them, the Captains' function is to further the plot. However, they also inform the audience that in addition to the heroes Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus—already described by Posthumus—there was a fourth. This leads us to guess that this man was Posthumus himself, which proves to be the case.


Frenchman is a friend of the Roman gentleman Philario. In 1.5 Posthumus arrives in Rome. He has been exiled from Britain because he married the king's daughter, Imogen, and he meets the Frenchman and Iachimo at Philano's home.  The Frenchman has known Posthumus in the past, and he recollects a duel the Briton once fought over the virtues of a woman. This triggers the fateful wager between Posthumus and lachimo over Imogen's chastity. The Frenchman is a pawn of plot development, and represents the world of gentlemanly duels inhabited by Posthumus and Iachimo.


Lord are any noblemen at the court of King Cymbeline. In 1.3 and 2.1 two of the noblemen are featured as followers of the uncouth Prince Cloten; the First Lord is attentive and flattering, but the Second Lord mocks the obnoxious prince behind his back, which helps to characterize the play's comic villain. In Acts 3-5, the Lords play a smaller part as often-silent figures who swell the scene at Cymbeline's court. A single Lord appears in 5.3 as a soldier who has fled from the battle against the Romans. Though this could possibly be a different person, Posthumus' disdain for him would be appropriate if he were one of Cloten's followers. In any case, this Lord serves to receive information as Posthumus tells him—and the audience—of the battle's outcome.


Gentleman are any noblemen at King Cymbeline’s court. In 1.1 the First Gentleman tells the Second Gentleman about the marriage of the king's daughter, Imogen, to Posthumus, a poor but noble youth who has been banished from Britain because the king had wanted Imogen to marry the boorish Cloten. He adds that Imogen is the king's only child, other than two lost sons, kidnapped 20 years earlier and never recovered. The First Gentleman's excitement is clear in his hurried speech. This stirs interest in the audience, though his companion merely punctuates his monologue with brief questions. The episode, which fills the whole of the play's first scene, establishes the basic situation of the plot.

Gaolers (Jailers)

Gaoler are the keepers of the captured Posthumus, who is believed to be a Roman prisoner of war. In 5.4 the First Gaoler is a Clown who interrupts the action with humorous remarks on life and death (the Second Gaoler speaks only half a line). He provides comic relief as the plot becomes most troubling. He offers a sardonic philosophy of death as a relief from life, a view that encapsulates Posthumus' depressed state. 

The placement of this character is significant. The Gaoler (after a mute appearance in 5.3, and a brief one at the opening of 5.4) arrives to summon Posthumus to his execution, at 5.4.152. This is after Posthumus has had his vision of Sicilius Leonatus and Jupiter—which we recognize as the climax of the play. Thus, the Gaoler's comic approach to the tragic potential of life comes only after an assurance that the play will have a happy ending. 

The Gaoler resembles such predecessors as the Porter of Macbeth and the Grave-digger of Hamlet. Some scholars believe that the Gaoler's part was written to be performed by the same actor who played Cloten—probably Robert Armin. This hypothetical idea is based on the clownishness of the two characters and the possibility of one person playing both, since Cloten dies early in Act 4.


Queen is the wife King Cymbeline and stepmother of his daughter Imogen The Queen, one of several villains in the play, The most purely vicious of them. She had planned that Imogen marry her son, the oafish Cloten, but Imogen eloped with Posthumus instead. Posthumus is exiled, and the Queen directs her malice towards Imogen and Pisanio, Posthumus' servant who has stayed with Imogen. She is the archetypal wicked stepmother, and her villainy is clear from her initial appearance, in 1.2, when she pretends to protect Imogen but reveals her malice in an aside. Imogen is undeceived and notes the Queen's 'dissembling courtesv' (1 2 15); thus, the Queen's wickedness is immediately established. In 1.6 the Queen collects poison from the physician Cornelius and offers it to Pisanio as health-giving potion in the hope that he will take it and die. However, Cornelius -will not trust one other malice' (1.6.35), and has substituted a sleeping potion for the poison. The Queen is ultimately ineffective, but her evil intent is a prominent element of the first half of the play. 

Once her nature is well established, the Queen plays a lesser role. At the play's close we learn of her death from an illness caused by her despair at Cloten s sudden disappearance. Her final confession of sins-including an intent to poison the king himself-prepares for the final sequence of reconciliations in 5.5 The Queen has only been forestalled by the whim of fortune: Cloten has been killed by a chance encounter that is the result of a long series of events that began with the exile of Posthumus. She has therein fulfilled the villain's role in this play, which is to be defeated by the intervention of providence.


Imogen is the daughter of King Cymbeline and wife of Posthumus. Imogen, the central character of the play, loses the love other husband through no fault other own, is exposed to great danger and wanders in the wilderness, and then is finally restored to happiness. She embodies the play's lesson that while humanity may exhibit courage and an undefeatable spirit of love, our happiness nevertheless depends on providence. Imogen has long been among the favorite heroines in Shakespeare. The Victorian poet Swinburne extravagantly called her 'the woman best beloved in all the world of song and all the tide of time'. However, her great charm is also evidence of a failure on the playwright's part as he struggled with a new/genre, the Romances. 

Imogen is subjected to a harrowing sequence of misfortunes. Her father banishes Posthumus to Italy, and she faces the unwanted courtship of both the boorish Cloten and the oily Iachimo, the latter of whom malevolently convinces Posthumus that she has been unfaithful. Posthumus thereupon arranges for her murder in the wilds of Wales. A faithful servant, Pisanio, warns her and provides her with a disguise as a young man, but she finds herself stranded in the wilderness. After several adventurous episodes during which she comes to believe Posthumus is dead and is herself believed to be dead by others, she returns to her father's court in the guise of a Roman prisoner of war. In the final scene's sequence of reconciliations her identity is revealed, and she is reunited with both husband and father. 

Though Imogen has always enchanted audiences, her resourcefulness and charm suggest one who battles against destiny rather than the helpless victim of fate. In the literature on which Shakespeare's romances were based, the traditional character type corresponding to Imogen was the fairy-tale princess who is adored for her beauty and passive calm, an object of intrigue but not a participant in it. She represents humanity's helplessness and inspires pity in her plight, rather than admiration for her pluck. Imogen is intermittently presented in terms of this ideal. To Pisanio, she is 'more goddess-like than wife-like* (3.2.8), and lachimo compares her to 'th'Arabian bird' (1.7.17), the fabled Phoenix who cannot die. She sometimes seems to be a helpless puppet of the plot, as when she immediately accepts lachimo's transparently false excuse for having proposed adultery with a humble 'You make amends' (1.7.168). Moreover, she adopts a purely conventional morality when she refuses to sleep with Posthumus even after they are married, presumably because she awaits her father's approval of the match. 

However, Imogen has another set of qualities as well. In her spunk, her sharp wit, and her willingness to pursue her lover—as well as in her male disguise—Imogen is typical of Shakespeare's earlier comic heroines. In Cymbeline the playwright approached a new sort of character but could not divorce himself from habits of characterization that he had used earlier. This happened with several of the characters in the play. Imogen is a transitional figure; Shakespeare would soon create female characters whose ethereal serenity would fulfil the romantic ideal. In Imogen he produced an uneasy conjunction of ideal womanhood—seen in Hermione of The Winter's Tale and Miranda of The Tempest—and boyish pluck, such as had enlivened Rosalind of As You Like It, and Viola of Twelfth Night, among others. Imogen, for all her charming virtues, presents an image slightly contrary to the general tone of the play and thus in part contributes to its weakness.

HELEN Lady in waiting attending to Imogen who appears only briefly early in the play.

Tribunes are Roman officials. In 3.8 the Tribunes are informed by a Senator of the emperor's orders: They are to recruit an armed force from among the gentry of Rome that will be sent against King Cymbeline. Only the First Tribune speaks; he asks two brief questions and tersely accepts the orders. These two figures serve as recipients of information intended principally for the audience.


Soothsayer is a priestly fortune-teller who serves the Roman army In 4.2 the Soothsayer tells of his dream of Jove's bird the Roman eagle' (4.2.348), which he interprets as an omen of victory for the forthcoming battle against King Cymbeline’s British forces. Though he is mistaken—the Britons win—this reference may be recalled by the audience when Jupiter (or Jove) appears to Posthumus, in 5.4. In 5.5 the Soothsayer, who is now a prisoner of war, interprets the text that Jupiter get behind. He offers an interpretation that formulates the play's symbolic values of reunion and renewal. The Soothsayer's name, Philarmonus (5 5 434), suggests the joyful conclusion that he foretells.


Also, any servants of King Cymbeline, in 3.5 an Attendant is sent to find Imogen and returns to report briefly that her chambers are locked and silent. This informs the court of what the audience already knows—that Imogen has fled. The Attendant serves merely as an instrument of communication. Also, a number of Attendants mutely swell the king's retinue when he is informed of the approaching Roman army, in 4.3; their function is purely decorative. 

Messenger is a servant of King Cymbeline. In 2.3 the Messenger announces the arrival of an ambassador, and m 5.4 he summons Posthumus from his pending execution to an audience with the king. The Messenger's function is to advance the plot.


Mother the deceased parent of Posthumus who appears to him as an apparition, in 5.4. The Mother appears with other ghosts: her husband, Sicilius Leonatus, and her two sons. Led by Sicilius, they plead with Jupiter for mercy on Posthumus. The Mother's part in this ritualistic solicitation is small; she points out that she died when she gave birth to Posthumus and left him an orphan; because of this, he deserves pity. She is a supernatural presence in an episode whose function is to create an air of eerie romance.

Sicilius Leonatus is the deceased father of Posthumus, who appears as a ghost in 5.4. The spirit of Sicilius is accompanied by those of his wife, Posthumus' Mother, and his two elder sons. Sicilius leads them as they plead to Jupiter on behalf of Posthumus. Sicilius observes that he died before Posthumus was born, a circumstance that earns pity for his son.  A brother and other siblings also appear in this vision.


Jupiter is the Roman king of the gods, appears to the desperate Posthumus in a vision where he assures the spirit of Posthumus' father, Sicilius Leonatus, that the young man will be restored to good fortune. He then departs, and leaves a tablet with a cryptic message (5.4.138-145) that is interpreted later by the Soothsayer as an allegory of reunion and renewal.  Posthumus does not realize that his chaotic drift towards tragedy has ended with the god's appearance,  and he is still intent on death. However, the audience is aware that he shall be 'happier much by his affliction made' (5.4.108), as the god puts it. Thus, Jupiter embodies the play's moral: that humanity depends on providence for happiness.

Jupiter's style is very formal. He speaks in rhyming verse and old-fashioned language unlike anything else in the play. This signifies his supernatural nature. In performance, his lines are sometimes sung. The stage direction at his entrance reads, Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle . . .' (5.4.- 92); this makes it clear that either the Blackfriars Theatre or the Globe, or both, were equipped with a mechanical apparatus that permitted characters to enter a scene from above by being lowered from the ceiling. As in the present case, this permitted a literal deus ex machina, or 'god from the machine', the phrase for a surprise appearance by a god who resolves the situation of a play. The machine was originally a cranelike device used in ancient Greek theatre to lower actors portraying deities as though they were descending from heaven.

Some scholars believe Jupiter may have been intended as an allegorical representation of King James I, newly crowned as the first joint monarch of England and Scotland. In this light, the cryptic tablet reads as a tribute to the two countries.


Musicians are  players who serenade Imogen for Cloten. One of the Musicians sings the song, 'Hark, hark, the lark' (2.3.19-25), but otherwise they do not speak and leave as soon as they have completed their performance. The episode offers a musical diversion that is appropriate to a comedy. It also relieves the sense of menace from the previous scene—Iachimo’s trespass in Imogen's bedchamber—and from the approach of Cloten. Additionally, it provides time for Imogen to change her costume from nightclothes to daytime garb.


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Titus Andronicus Troilus & Cressida Twelfth Night Two Gentlemen of Verona The Two Noble Kinsman The Winter's Tale


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