Study Guide

Cymbeline, King of Britain Lies and Deceit

By William Shakespeare

Lies and Deceit

Call the fire department, because everyone's pants are on fire in Cymbeline. Iachimo lies to Posthumus about hooking up with his wife. The Queen tricks Cymbeline into believing that she loves him and wants the best for his family, when really she is conspiring to kill him and his daughter. Cornelius lies about the potion he gives the Queen. Belarius lies to Guiderius and Arviragus about their identities. Even honest Imogen joins the game by making people believe she's a dude, and by marrying Posthumus behind her father's back.

No wonder it's hard to keep track of what's really going on in this play. It's lies that make the plot go round, and that leads us to the question: why is there so much deceit in this play? Does the artificiality of politics and court power turn people into liars? Do love and lust turn people into liars?

Either way, let's get out those polygraphs and watch these folks go off the charts.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Why does Imogen dress as a guy? What else could she do to clear her name? Does her ruse actually come to anything?
  2. How do characters talk about lying? Is lying something associated with one gender or class?
  3. Which characters avoid deception completely? What does this tell us about lies?
  4. Is there a difference between certain lies and others? Is Imogen's deception the same as Iachimo's? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Every character must lie in Cymbeline,because no one can be trusted.

Imogen lies for personal gain—just like Iachimo and the Queen. All lies are equally bad in the play.