Discussion questions from Dartmouth site: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~engl24/study_questions/cymbeline/questions.html

Jean Howard's introduction in the Norton edition is very good, especially in her observations about the play's attitudes towards British nationalism, anxieties about manliness and women in authority, and the fantasy of androgenesis. I encourage you to read it carefully.

1.1. Cymbeline occupies the place of supreme father-figure in this play. He is the father of his country, the father of its independence from Rome, the father of the heir, Innogen, the step-father of Cloten, and the father of two inexplicably lost sons. What sort of father is he? How is he regarded at court?

Posthumus Leonatus is an orphan; he was born an orphan (36-41). He is our hero, and his manliness is one of the play's major concerns. He is, however, fatherless, and Cymbeline is a rather poor substitute for a father. Posthumus's manliness is measured, in part, by Innogen's choice of him over Cloten and her father's will (52-53). What sort of manliness, by comparison, does Cymbeline represent (105-197)?

Cloten. What sort of manliness does Cloten represent? See 2.1.19-20, too.

1.4. Posthumus in Italy. How does Posthumus conceive of British nationalism? What is the connection between Innogen's wifely virtue (or is it maidenly virtue) and British virtue?

How does Giacomo conceive of Italian (as opposed to Roman?) national virtue? What, accordng to him, makes Italians great and manly?

2.1. What is the Second Lord's assessment of the British national situation (49-62)? What would rectify it? What would happen is Innogen became Queen without Posthumus? With Cloten? How does the gender of the monarch get negotiated here?

2.4. Why does Posthumus so readily credit Giacomo? How does this compare to Innogen's resistance to credit Giacomo concerning her husband's fidelity (1.6)? On the other hand, Innogen was careless enough to give Giacomo access to the court and to her bedchamber (1.6.195). If Innogen represents Britain (1.6.113-114) in this play, then perhaps the only safe Britain (however virtuous) is a well-husbanded Britain, but for Posthumus to be a good husband to Britain, he must be able to trust his wife?

2.5. Here we find Posthumus's anxious fantasy about androgenesis. Wouldn't it be nice to have a world full of men without needing women to make them? Milton's Adam also enjoys this fantasy briefly (Paradise Lost 10.888). Does the play endorse Posthumus's burst of misogyny here? Are women and the "woman's part" in men to blame for human corruption? Christianity teaches that the Son of God was "begotten from everlasting of the Father" before the creation of the world (Articles of Religion of the Church of England), and only later "took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin." In order to be a redeemer, then, he took on "the woman's part," but as the everlasting Son of the Father, he is free of any such nature. Is not this also a fantasy of heavenly androgenesis? Is Posthumus's fantasy, then, as strange as we might think it?

3.1. Britain's relationship to Rome is a central theme of this play. Rome is though to be the home of virtus, manliness in honor, warlikeness, and empire. Cymbeline is a "son" of Rome (67-70) but he thinks of Britain as worthy now to be independent of Rome as it once was--a "son," as it were, who has come of age and seeks independence from the father. The question will be--what kind of virtus will rule in Britain, a modified Roman kind or a more home-grown kind, represented by Guiderius and Arviragus? This is also a loose allegory of the English church's position vis-a-vis the Roman catholic church. What sort of church will the reformed English church become? Will it ape Roman ways, or Italian (thought to be effeninate) ways, or the manly ways of the two lost boys? What ideology will underwrite and promote Britain's bid for empire? Will it be like Rome, or something more natively British?

In his dealings with Lucius, what sort of man is Cymbeline?

3.3. Here we meet the native manliness of Cymbeline's lost sons, and their step-father Belarius. Why does Belarius continually compare life in the cave to life at court? Are the two boys considered noble because of their birth ("sparks of nature") or noble because of their outward-bound style upbringing (21-26)? 3.4. Innogen indulges now in a bit of misandrony (a word?) to match Posthumus's misogyny (53-63). If Posthumus is false, then all men are false and fickle.

Ironically, Pisanio's plan is that Innogen "must forget to be a woman" (154), and adopt men's ways. What version of manliness is described here (157-67)? What will she achieve by adopting such a "manhood" (192)?

3.6. Why are Guiderius and Arviragus so immediately attracted to Fidele (Innogen in disguise)? Does this suggest that they especially love "the woman's part" in a man (67-70)? Is being attracted to young boys more manly than being attracted to women? Are we to suppose they somehow sense their brotherhood to Innogen, a brotherhood that would be harder to detect if she were not dressed as a boy? Is this a fantasy, related to Posthumus's, of a world of only men and brothers? Does Innogen, in a way, share this fantasy (85-86)?

4.2. Now both Guiderius and Arviragus proclaim outright their love for Fidele. They love him even more than their presumed father (22-24). Is this their hidden kinship showing through? Are they attracted to Fidele's feminine qualities (49-50)? Is she, in a way, representative of the Britain they love, whom they were born to husband and protect even though they don't know this yet? Is there a note of incest lurking in all of this?

Guiderius, the native British man kills Cloten the rapist. He kills him mostly for being a bragging fool. He cuts off his head; he unmans Cloten, even as Cloten is wearing the clothes of our special manly hero. Does this represent the killing of one part of Posthumus's manliness, the "woman's part" or the jealous rapist murderer part?

Why does Belarius think killing Cloten betokens some invisible royal "instinct" in the youth (175-182)?

Arviragus strews flowers on Fidele's grave and recites poetry; Guiderius upbraids him, calling his observance "wench-like words" (231). Is Guiderius the more manly of the two lost brothers? Or is he too sharp and requires the more "wench-like" counterpart of his brother? Must a good king be both hypermanly like Guiderius or have somewhat of the "woman's part like Arviragus? See what Lucius the Roman thinks on this point (397-401) when he says he learns "manly duties" from the boy Fidele (Innogen).

How could Innogen mistake Cloten's body for Posthumus's (311-313)? Do all men look alike? Have they not slept together much before Posthumus's exile (see 3.1.9-13).

4.3. Cymbeline appears lost without his Queen and Cloten (27).

5.1. Posthumus regrets ordering Pisanio to kill Innogen, and dwells a bit, as Kent in Lear, on the "higher" duty of good servants to serve only the most noble parts of their master's wills (6-7).

There's symbolism in Posthumus's changes of clothing. When he goes off to Italy, he leaves his British court clothes behind and Cloten usurps them to play his part. Now returned to Britain, he doffs his "Italian weeds" (23) and assumes the costume of a "Briton peasant," a low, but native costume.

5.2. Giacomo imagines that the British air itself "unmans" him, and that even the peasants of this land are more manly warlike than the Italians (Romans).

5.5. This appearance of Jupiter riding o an eagle is a deus ex machina of the most spectacular kind; it is literally God himself descending to set things right. And he descends, be it noted, during the reign of Augustus Caesar.