Though once held in very high regard, Cymbeline lost favour with critics in the 18th century. The most famous comments were made by Samuel Johnson:
This play has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but they are obtained at the expense of much incongruity. To remark the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names and manners of different times, and the impossibility of the events in any system of life, were to waste criticism upon unresisting imbecility, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation.
Lytton Strachey famously found it "difficult to resist the conclusion that he [Shakespeare] was getting bored himself. Bored with people, bored with real life, bored with drama, bored, in fact, with everything except poetry and poetical dreams." Harley Granville-Barker had similar views, saying that the play shows that Shakespeare was becoming a "wearied artist".
William Hazlitt and John Keats, however, numbered it among their favorite plays.
Some have taken the convoluted plot as evidence that the play deliberately parodies its own content. Harold Bloom says "Cymbeline, in my judgment, is partly a Shakespearean self parody; many of his prior plays and characters are mocked by it." In Act V Scene IV, "Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle: he throws a thunderbolt." After stating that Posthumus' fortunes will improve, Jupiter returns to heaven on his eagle. In one scene, a character seems to say that a plot point is to be "laughed at". When it is explained how the king's children were abducted, a minor character adds, "the negligence may well be laughed at, Yet is it true, sir."