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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Scene Summaries With Notes

Act I, Scene 1

The scene opens in the garden of King Cymbeline's palace in Britain. Two gentleman of the court enter, talking animatedly of the happenings over the past few days. From their conversation, the reader learns that Cymbeline is very unhappy with his daughter, Imogen, who had married a man against her father's wishes. Imogen's husband, Posthumus Leonatus, a gentleman of the court, comes from a distinguished family. His father, Sicilius had fought bravely against the Romans and had earned the surname Leonatus through his valor. Overcome by grief at the death of his elder sons (who died fighting in battle), he had died before Posthumus was born. Sicilius's wife had died in childbirth, and the child, named Posthumus had also been a playmate for the gentle Imogen. The two young people had fallen in love. However, Imogen's stepmother, the Queen, had persuaded the King to marry Imogen to her unpleasant, uncouth son, Cloten. When the King discovers that Imogen has disobeyed him and married Posthumus, he becomes furious, and banishes Posthumus from Britain. From the conversation it can also be perceived that Cymbeline had two sons, apart from his daughter Imogen, but the children were stolen from the nursery almost twenty years ago and never found.

The Queen enters with Posthumus and Imogen. She pretends to be on their side as she assures Imogen that she shall not persecute her as a stepmother would. She leaves them alone to talk to each other, even though the King has forbidden this. Imogen is aware of the true nature of her stepmother but is willing to take the opportunity to bid farewell to her husband. The lovers take leave of each other in a poignant scene. Posthumus is leaving for Rome to stay with his father's friend and promises to write often. Meanwhile, the Queen re-enters briefly to ask them to hurry up as the King may come by at any moment. However, in an aside, she reveals her intentions of persuading the King to come and see for himself his daughter's outright disobedience.


The couple exchange tokens of love; Imogen gives her husband a diamond ring that had belonged to her mother and insists that he wear it until her death. Posthumus gives her a bracelet, a "manacle of love" that she should wear constantly. The King enters, with his lords, and sees the lovers together. Cymbeline is angry and banishes Posthumus from his presence, bidding him never to return. With a hasty farewell, Posthumus leaves. Father and daughter exchange bitter words as Cymbeline berates his daughter for disobeying him by refusing to marry Cloten. Imogen is scornful of the uncouth Cloten, and declares that she has chosen a fine man, "worth any woman." The Queen enters and tries to make peace between them, but Cymbeline leaves. A little later, Posthumus' servant Pisanio enters with the news that Cloten had challenged his master to a duel, but that no harm had come to either. Imogen sends Pisanio to bid his master farewell as he boards the ship, before returning to serve her as per Posthumus's instructions while he is away.

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