Study Guide

Cymbeline, King of Britain Society and Class

By William Shakespeare

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Society and Class

Social class was a big deal in Shakespeare's England, and Cymbeline is totally reflective of that. Take Posthumus: the main argument against him getting together with Imogen is that he doesn't come from a good enough class. Posthumus's social class? Cymbeline mocks it, Cloten mocks it, and Imogen knows it and doesn't care. For many, the play seems to challenge and critique some social and political structures. For others, the play takes a good hard look at some of Britain's social ills but eventually ends up supporting the status quo.

Which is it? That's for you to decide, but we're here to help.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Why is Posthumus considered worse than Cloten? Aside from their ranks, what is different about them?
  2. What does Cloten's character tell us about social class? Is he worthy of his princely title? Are Guiderius and Arviragus worthy of theirs?
  3. In what ways does Cymbeline challenge the idea that the higher the social class, the better the person?

Chew on This

Social class doesn't matter in the end, because Cymbeline realizes that Posthumus is noble and valiant despite his class.

Cymbeline might challenge rank in some ways, but eventually, normal social order is restored.

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