Cymbeline Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Trace the images throughout Cymbeline, concentrating on images of birds and flowers. What role do these play? How are images of nature especially important to Cymbeline, in light of its content and its genre?

  2. 2

    Analyze Posthumus's diatribe against women at the end of Act Two in the context of the play as a whole. Is Cymbeline a misogynistic play?

  3. 3

    What does Shakespeare seem to suggest about nobility in the play? Is there more than one type of nobility? What makes a genuine noble in Cymbeline?

  4. 4

    Northrop Frye has referred to Cymbeline as "Much Ado About Everything", joking that the play is, in a way, a compendium of Shakespeare's major concerns. Trace some of the play's possible allusions to other Shakespearean plays, concentrating especially on Othello, As You Like It, and Much Ado About Nothing.

  5. 5

    Explore the role of religion in Cymbeline. Who are the major religious figures in the play, and how do they inform your reading of the work? Is Cymbeline primarily a pagan or Christian play, or perhaps something in between?

  6. 6

    Cymbeline is known among Shakespearean scholars for its language: exceptionally difficult, even by Shakespearean standards. Consider a passage you find particularly difficult, and ask yourself why Shakespeare expresses himself in such an obscure manner. What makes Cymbeline's language so unique? What technical features distinguish its language? Is there something about Cymbeline that requires such difficult language, or is this mere showboating?

  7. 7

    What part do the songs in Cymbeline play? Analyze the three major musical passages in the play-i.e. the "Hark, the lark" song, the "Fear no more" song, and Posthumus's dream passage in Act Five, scene four. Can these passages be analyzed on more than one level? How do their lyrics fit into the play as a whole? How does music itself fit into the play?

  8. 8

    Discuss Cymbeline as a Romance. First, what is a Romance? How does Cymbeline compare to other Shakespearean Romance plays? Try to make sense of J.M. Nosworthy's contention that Cymbeline is an "experimental romance."

  9. 9

    Discuss the depiction of marriage in Cymbeline. Imogen and Posthumus appear to be married at the start of the play, and marriage motifs abound throughout. Consider marriage in the context of genre: tragedies traditionally begin with marriages (think Hamlet or Othello), while comedies generally end with them (think As You Like It or Much Ado About Nothing). Is marriage in Cymbeline at the play's beginning, end, or both?

  10. 10

    Why is Cymbeline named after Cymbeline? Who was Cymbeline, historically, and why was he important to England? Is the play named after the King simply because of convention, or is there a thematic explanation?