Study Guide

Cymbeline, King of Britain Compassion and Forgiveness

By William Shakespeare

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Compassion and Forgiveness

How do you manage to forgive a person who has ruined your life?

Shmoop's answer: we don't know. It's a tricky question, but it's one that Cymbeline asks again and again. Cymbeline is faced with his sons' kidnapper; Imogen is confronted with the man who slandered her name and almost ruined her marriage; Posthumus comes face to face with the guy who made him order his wife's death.

From the outside, such a person may seem vile, stupid, or just plain incomprehensible. But if you can imagine what it's like inside that person's head, you might be surprised by the answers—and compassion—you find. Of course, there's also the danger that the person is just as nasty as you thought, but that's the risk a good person has to be willing to take in this play.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Why does Cymbeline forgive Belarius for kidnapping his sons and the Romans for waging war? Is his judgment clouded by the joyous events happening around him? Does it matter?
  2. Does Imogen forgive Iachimo for insulting her good name and pushing Posthumus away from her? Why is she silent when Iachimo apologizes?
  3. What's the deal with the Queen and Cloten dying? Why aren't they formally forgiven for their actions, as Iachimo, for example, is?

Chew on This

Cymbeline forgives everyone because he realizes there are more important things in life than holding grudges.

The Queen and Cloten were too evil to be forgiven; they had to be killed off for their evil actions.

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