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Cymbeline (pronounced /ˈsɪmbɨliːn/) is a play by William Shakespeare, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobelinus. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance. Like Othello, Measure for Measure, and The Winter's Tale, it deals with the themes of innocence and jealousy. While the precise date of composition remains unknown, the play was certainly produced as early as 1611.[1]



The plot of Cymbeline is loosely based on a tale by Geoffrey of Monmouth about the real-life British monarch Cunobelinus. Shakespeare, however, freely adapts the legend to a large extent and adds entirely original sub-plots. Iachimo's wager and subsequent hiding-place within a chest in order to gather details of Imogen's room derive from story II.9 of Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron.[2]

Date and text

Cymbeline cannot be precisely dated. The Yale edition suggests a collaborator had a hand in the authorship, and some scenes (e.g. Act III scene 7 and Act V scene 2) may strike the reader as particularly un-Shakespearean when compared with others. The play shares notable similarities in language, situation and plot with Beaumont and Fletcher's tragicomedy Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding, (c.1609–10). Both plays concern themselves with a princess who, after disobeying her father in order to marry a lowly lover, is wrongly accused of infidelity and thus ordered to be murdered, before escaping and having her faithfulness proven. Furthermore, both were written for the same theatre company and audience.[3] Some scholars believe this supports a dating of approximately 1609, though it is not clear which play preceded the other.[4] Cymbeline was first published in the First Folio in 1623 but the first recorded production, as noted by Simon Forman, was in April 1611.[5]

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