Study Guide

Cymbeline, King of Britain Suffering

By William Shakespeare

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In Cymbeline, there's only one way to deal with suffering: endure it.

That's doesn't mean the characters in this play are always up to the task: they may put up with the suffering, but they also weep, rant, and lament about it. Some of them try to scheme their way out of suffering, and the consequences of that are rarely good. You can't take any shortcuts in the world of this play.

Imogen arguably suffers the most in this play: her husband orders her death, her stepmother plots her demise, and her father tries to control her life. It's rough. Imogen doesn't have a monopoly on suffering, though: Posthumus is put through the ringer by Iachimo, Cymbeline loses all three of his children, and Guiderius and Arviragus mourn the loss of their friend/sister with their wannabe father. We'd say these characters have it pretty tough—or at least they think they do.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Why do so many of the characters suffer in Cymbeline? Do they learn anything from their tough times?
  2. How does Imogen deal with her trials? Does she wallow in self-pity, or does she fight back?
  3. Who causes most of the suffering in the play? Does it come external causes, internal causes, or both? Sure, the Queen is evil, but is she to blame for everything that happens?

Chew on This

Posthumus creates his own suffering by betting with Iachimo and believing Iachimo's stories.

Her struggles with her dad and husband give Imogen the strength to stand up for herself. She is much stronger at the end of the play because she's suffered so much.

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