By William Shakespeare

Directed by Bart DeLorenzo

Sept 22 – Nov 18, 2012

“Delightfully over-the-top…[a] frothy and fun confection”

–Los Angeles Times

“Funny, touching and entertaining…great fun!”
– Pasadena Star News

– LA Weekly

In Britain, chaos erupts in the court of King Cymbeline when his daughter, princess Imogen, secretly marries Posthumus, the poor orphan Cymbeline raised in his court. Cymbeline and the Queen (Imogen’s devious stepmother) had other plans for Imogen, which involved ensuring their legacy and her marrying Cloten, the Queen’s son. Imogen is the throne’s sole heir. Twenty years ago, her brothers, Guiderius and Arviragus, were kidnapped from their nursery. Imogen’s secret marriage enrages the king who, in turn, banishes Posthumus from the realm. Before parting ways, Imogen gives Posthumus a diamond ring. In exchange, Posthumus gives Imogen a bracelet and flees to Rome. At Posthumus’ command, Pisanio remains at court to attend to Imogen. The play continues in Rome. Philario welcomes the exile into his home. He introduces Posthumus to Iachimo, an Italian gentleman and a Frenchman. The men argue that all women are the same, and any can be easily wooed. Posthumus disagrees, and declares his Imogen forever faithful. Iachimo doubts this and raises the stakes: he wagers 10,000 gold ducats against Posthumus’ diamond ring, and states he will successfully seduce Imogen. Back in Britain, the Queen receives a potion from her doctor, Cornelius. The Queen insists she will use it for scientific experiments, which leaves Cornelius suspicious of her motives. To the audience, Cornelius reveals the drug is only powerful enough to induce unconsciousness, not death. The Queen, believing the potion deadly, deliberately drops it at Pisanio’s feet, and tells him to use it if he needs a powerful cure-all to ward off illness. Iachimo arrives in Britain to woo Imogen. She refuses to believe Iachimo’s lies, and declines his advances. Iachimo devises a cunning plan to convince Posthumus of the affair that will never happen: he persuades Imogen to store his chest in her bedroom for safekeeping and, unbeknownst to Imogen, hides in it. While Imogen sleeps, Iachimo creeps out to inspect Imogen’s bedroom and examines her body. In order to present evidence of the “affair” to Posthumus, Iachimo seizes Imogen’s bracelet and steals away home to Rome.

The next morning, Cloten attempts to flatter Imogen by hiring musicians to sing by her bedroom, but Imogen will not comply. Cloten’s persistence is met with Imogen’s insults. In Rome, Iachimo confronts Posthumus with the stolen bracelet and his new knowledge of Imogen’s body. This news convinces Posthumus of Imogen’s infidelity.


In Britain, Caius Lucius, a Roman ambassador, visits the court to collect the yearly three thousand pound tribute, but Cymbeline refuses to pay. Without the fee, Caius Lucius declares war between Rome and Britain. Pisanio receives two letters from Posthumus: one commanding Pisanio to kill Imogen because she is unfaithful, and another urging Imogen to leave with Pisanio under the pretense of meeting Posthumus in Milford-Haven (Wales.) He gives her the latter letter. Once in the forest, Pisanio reveals the plot to Imogen. He advises her to dress like a boy and join Caius Lucius in Rome. This way, she can locate Posthumus and disprove Iachimo’s evil rumor. Disguised as “Fidele,” Imogen sets out for Wales. Back at the palace, Cloten confronts Pisanio and interrogates him for Imogen’s whereabouts. Cloten sets out for Wales, determined to kill Posthumus and rape Imogen, while dressed in Posthumus’ clothes. Imogen, now Fidele, discovers an empty cave belonging to old Morgan and his two sons, Polydore and Cadwal. Morgan is actually Belarius, Cymbeline’s former general who was accused of a crime he did not commit. In an act of revenge, the banished Belarius kidnapped Cymbeline’s sons, so, the young men are by birth Imogen’s long-lost brothers, Guiderius and Arviragus. The three men return home and treat her kindly; meanwhile, Cloten approaches the cave.


The men go out hunting while Imogen stays home. Feeling ill, she ingests the medicine Pisanio gave her (the Queen’s potion) and falls into a death-like unconsciousness. Cloten crosses paths and challenges Guiderius. Guiderius kills Cloten by cutting off his head. Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus return to the cave and believe Imogen is dead. They place her body beside Cloten’s and mourn. Imogen awakes alone, lying next to a headless corpse she believes to be Posthumus (an easy mistake since Cloten wears Posthumus’ clothes.) Caius Lucius discovers Imogen, and she joins him on his march in the new war (as Fidele.) Posthumus, having received word of Imogen’s death, regrets his actions. He disguises himself as a British peasant to fight against Rome. In the battle, Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, and Posthumus fight valiantly for Britain. Against all odds, they defeat the Romans. Caius Lucius, Iachimo, and Posthumus are taken prisoner and sentenced to death.


As Posthumus lies in prison, a vision of Jupiter appears and promises to save him. As morning comes, soldiers arrive to take him to his execution. Everyone assembles at court. Pisanio reveals that the Queen confessed her evil intentions and has died. Caius Lucius pleads for Fidele’s life and Cymbeline grants it. Iachimo confesses his crimes against Posthumus and Imogen. Many identities are revealed and crimes forgiven. Posthumus laments his mistakes, reunites with Imogen, and pardons Iachimo from the death penalty. Guiderius confesses he killed Cloten. To spare him from punishment, Belarius reveals that his sons are truly Cymbeline’s kidnapped sons. In the end, after many revelations and reunions, Cymbeline pardons Belarius, and proclaims peace with Rome.

Cymbeline’s Dark Fairytale by Miranda Johnson-Haddad

Cymbeline Character Map

Cymbeline Study Guide

Bart DeLorenzo’s Thoughts on Cymbeline

George Bernard Shaw’s, Cymbeline Refinished, Shaw’s reworking of Act V

Full Text of Cymbeline by William Shakespeare