''Cymbeline'', a tragicomedy by Creator/WilliamShakespeare, is one the Bard's more obscure plays. Borrowed, barely, from Celtic lore, it tells the story of a king who rebels against Rome because of his evil wife. For unrelated reasons, his daughter spends most of the play cross-dressing and looking for her banished husband. Actually, [[SecondaryCharacterTitle it's more about the latter than the former]].

Cymbeline is king of a city in Britain, during the time of UsefulNotes/TheRomanEmpire. His daughter, Imogen, is in love with Posthumus, a poor nobleman. They marry, which infuriates Cymbeline, and so he banishes Posthumus to Italy. In Italy, Posthumus meets Jachimo (or Iachimo), who makes a bet. He says he can seduce Imogen, and prove that all women are naturally unfaithful. Jachimo goes to Britain, but failing to seduce Imogen by traditional means, resorts to trickery. Hiding himself in a chest in her room, he watches her sleep and collects details from her room. He also steals a bracelet, which was a gift from Posthumus.

Jachimo returns to Italy, hands Posthumus the bracelet, and provides details on Imogen's room and her naked body. Posthumus sends word to his servant Pisanio in Britian to kill his wife for her infidelity. Pisanio does not believe Imogen has cheated, so he convinces her to disguise herself as a boy and find her husband, so she can tell him her side of the story; Pisanio, meanwhile, will tell Posthumus she's dead. Imogen goes off to find her husband, but gets lost in Wales; she meets an exiled nobleman and his two sons. Unbeknownst to them but knownst to the nobleman, they are actually Cymbeline's sons (and Imogen's brothers); the nobleman kidnapped them in revenge for being exiled.

We learn that Cymbeline's Queen has convinced him to stop paying tribute to Rome, so Rome is about to attack. Due to circumstances[[note]]The Queen, who is evil, gives Imogen a potion that Imogen believes is medicine but the Queen knew was a deadly poison except it turns out that the doctor who the Queen asked for poison didn't trust her and just gave her a sleeping potion; while she's sleeping, Imogen's brothers kill the Queen's son, who has the hots for Imogen and was out looking for her, and when she wakes up she thinks he's Posthumus. ''Whew!''[[/note]], Imogen believes Posthumus is dead, and Posthumus regrets murdering her; she mourns, and he tries to kill himself by first fighting for Britain against Rome, then switching into Roman garb when the Britons win. Jupiter, the god, shows up to say he'll protect Posthumus. The next day, Posthumus is brought out as a prisoner, and one by one the cast shows up to explain the plot. Everyone lives happily ever after, except the Queen, who dies; with her dead, Cymbeline decides to start paying tribute to Rome again.

Basically, the play is a mishmash of plots Shakespeare regularly used in other plays. One interesting aspect of it, though, is that the characters can be read as [[RealitySubtext allusions to Jacobean figures]]. James of England is Cymbeline, who wishes for unity and peace. The play also emphasizes the concept of "Britain" -- the word appears more in this play than any other Shakespeare play, while the word "England" appears not a once.

In March 2015, a film adaptation was released, directed by Michael Almereyda (who previously directed the 2000 film adaptation of ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}''). Creator/EdHarris played the title role, with Milla Jovovich, Creator/EthanHawke, Penn Badgely, Anton Yelchin, Dakota Johnson, and John Leguizamo in supporting roles. The film is a SettingUpdate, portraying Cymbeline as the leader of a modern-day biker gang at odds with a corrupt police force.

!!This play provides examples of:

* AnachronismStew: Among other things, while the play is set in Roman times during the reign of [[Series/IClaudius Claudius]], Iachimo is pretty much a (stock evil) Renaissance Italian and his scenes with Postumus feel "contemporary" (for the time of Shakespeare).
* AncientRome: Where we lay our scene.
* AndAnotherThing: The entire last act of the show. In the space of a few dozen lines, Iachimo's treachery is revealed, Posthumus reveals who he is and claims to have killed Imogen, Imogen reveals who she is and that she is alive, the Queen is revealed to have been behind everything, Guiderius admits to having killed Cloten, and the princes are revealed to be royalty.
-->'''Cymbeline:''' New matter still? \\
'''Imogen:''' It poison'd me.\\
'''Cornelius:''' O gods!\\
I left out one thing which the queen confess'd.\\
Which must approve thee honest: 'If Pisanio\\
Have,' said she, 'given his mistress that confection\\
Which I gave him for cordial, she is served\\
As I would serve a rat.'"
* {{Arcadia}}
* AskAStupidQuestion: Immediately after one of the banished princes decapitates Cloten, their caretaker roars "What has thou done?" The response: [[CaptainObvious "Cut off one Cloten's head."]]
* BerserkButton: Posthumus is so convinced of Imogen's purity that he goes straight into a berserk rage vowing to "tear her limbmeal" when he's convinced she's cheated on him.
* CrazyJealousGuy: Posthumus, in typical Shakespearean tradition (see also Theatre/{{Othello}} and [[Theatre/TheWintersTale Leontes]]).
* CruelMercy: Posthumus to Iachimo after TheReveal:
--> "Kneel not to me\\
The power that I have on you is, to spare you;\\
The malice towards you to forgive you: live,\\
And deal with others better."
* {{Expy}}: Iachimo essentially means "little Iago"; some have argued he's supposed to be a toned-down version of ''Theatre/{{Othello}}'''s infamous villain. Like Iago, Iachimo sets out to make a husband suspicious of his wife's fidelity, [[spoiler:though in ''Cymbeline'', tragedy is averted and the couple is reconciled at the end.]]
* FauxDeath
* FidelityTest: Imogen passes, but Posthumus thinks she doesn't.
* [[FriendlyEnemy Friendly Enemies]]: Cymbeline and Lucius
* GodSaveUsFromTheQueen
** WickedStepmother: Lampshaded in that one of the Queen's first lines is declaring that she is not like the wicked stepmothers of the tales. She totally is.
* HiddenBackupPrince
* HonorBeforeReason
* IncestIsRelative: The Queen convinces Cymbeline to join her in persuading Imogen to marry her step-brother Cloten.
* IneffectualSympatheticVillain: Iachimo, which is part of why he gets reprieved. Notably, in the Creator/{{Boccaccio}} story the play is based on, the equivalent character is [[CruelAndUnusualDeath covered in honey and put in a cage and gets stung to death by insects]]. In particular, the whole "hiding in the chest" idea is vaguely ridiculous, making him a literal Jack-in-the-box, as is the Peeping Tom aspect, even though his reason for doing so isn't funny.
** It doesn't hurt that he's shown as remorseful when he realizes that his actions might have caused Imogen's death. His motivation for the deception lies somewhere between ForTheLulz and For The Money.
* {{Infodump}}: By the time he wrote this play, Shakespeare really couldn't be bothered to find an elegant way to do backstory. Good luck following the dialogue between the two gentlemen at the beginning of Act One.
* InTheBlood: The exiled princes, Caius Lucius, and Cymbeline all echo the sentiment of Imogen's essential noble nature when they meet her disguised as Fidele.
* IntimateMarks: Imogen, the heroine, has a mole under one of her breasts. Iachmo is able to falsely win a bet that he could seduce her, by spying on her while sleeping, and noting this distinguishing mark.
* ItsForABook, the evil Queen asks the court physician, Cornelius to brew for her an extremely deadly and painful poison. When he questions why she would want something like that, she offers the excuse that she plans to test it on animals and create an antidote based on treating its effects. Since Cornelius is not an idiot, he doesn't actually create the requested poison but instead gives her a compound that will cause the victim to have initial discomfort and fall into a death-like sleep but wake up healthy.
* ItWasAGift
* LampshadeHanging: The Queen tells Imogen she's not a WickedStepmother (she's lying, of course).
* LaughablyEvil: Cloten is amusing in a stupid thug kind of way. Even when yelling about how he will [[{{Squick}} rape his sister while wearing her lover's clothes to prove he's more worthy of her]].
* MistakenForCheating: As stated by Posthumus in one of his ranting monologues, it's made worse by the fact that Imogen had consistently refused to sleep with him.
--> "Me of my lawful pleasures she restrained / And prayed me oft forbearance"
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: Posthumus after he thinks he's successfully orchestrated Imogen's murder.
* NotWhatItLooksLike
* ParentalMarriageVeto
* {{Postmodernism}}: "Shall's have a play of this?"
* RagsToRoyalty
* SecondaryCharacterTitle
* SignatureItemClue: Iachimo "proves" that he seduced Posthumus' wife by showing him a bracelet which he claims the wife gave to him; in reality he sneaked into her bedchamber while she was asleep and stole it.
* SuicideByCop: Ancient version -- Posthumus, feeling guilty for (so he thinks) killing Imogen, plans to die in battle with the Romans.
* SweetPollyOliver
* ThoseTwoGuys: The creatively named First Lord and Second Lord who exist to explain the prologue and to play the StraightMan to TheClown Cloten. Productions frequently have the same two actors play First and Second Soldier, and First and Second Jailer who have similar parts.
* TwoLinesNoWaiting
* WrongfulAccusationInsurance