We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Origins of Shakespeare's "Cymbeline"?

By J.E. Holloway
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Shakespeare's Cymbeline is one of his latest plays. Built around the narrative of King Cymbeline's battle against the Romans and his daughter Imogen's love for the heroic Posthumus Leonatus, the play is a complicated tale of betrayal and mistaken identity. Shakespeare derived the narrative of Cymbeline from historical texts such as Holinshed's Chronicles and Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. Other elements of the play originate with the Decameron, by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio.

Cunobelinus, a historical British king who ruled in what is today southeastern England in the late first century BC and early first century AD, is the original inspiration for the character of Cymbeline. Although a powerful ruler, he was far from being king of all of Britain. His rule is known from the works of Roman historians, as well as from archaeological evidence.

Shakespeare's version of the character is based on the work of 12th-century historian Geoffrey of Monmouth. Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain depicts Cymbeline as a great king and warrior, a leader who was both on friendly terms with Rome and capable of resisting Roman aggression when needed. The king's two sons, Guiderius and Arviragus, also appear in Monmouth's story.

The conflict between Britons and Romans is only part of the plot of Shakespeare's play. Much of the action centers on the relationship between Cymbeline's daughter Imogen and her lover Posthumus Leonatus. The couple are opposed by the queen, her foolish son Cloten and the devious Iachimo, who persuades Leonatus that Imogen has been unfaithful to him, causing him to flee the court and her to pursue him in disguise.

Iachimo manages to fool Leonatus by discovering that Imogen has a mole, a fact he could only learn by seeing her naked. Leonatus comes to the conclusion that Iachimo and Imogen have been lovers, but in fact the villain has discovered this by concealing himself in a trunk in Imogen's chamber and emerging while she is asleep. This scene is heavily inspired by a similar incident in the Decameron, a 14th-century Italian work by Boccaccio.

The structure of Cymbeline is highly complex, with several different plots relating to disguise and mistaken identity. It also incorporates elements unusual in Shakespeare's work, including a dream sequence in which the god Jupiter descends to earth riding an eagle. Many scholars have suggested that Shakespeare was experimenting with new elements that were becoming more common in Jacobean drama. This experimentation was to bear fruit in his next and last plays, The Winter's Tale and The Tempest.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.