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Cymbeline: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 2

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The Queen tells Imogen that she is no wicked stepmother in that she supports her in her decision. She will have Imogen set free and speak in favor of Posthumus to the King. But she advises Posthumus to comply with the King's sentence of banishment. Posthumus agrees to leave today. The Queen leaves the newly-wed couple alone "in pity" of their state, in spite of the King's orders that they should not speak together.
Imogen tells Posthumus that the Queen is only pretending to be on their side. She has braced herself to stay and face her father's anger, and sorrowfully urges Posthumus to leave. Posthumus, moved by Imogen's grief, pledges his loyalty to her. He will go to Rome and stay with his father's friend Philario.
The Queen re-enters and advises the couple to be brief as she is at risk of angering the King. In a sinister aside to the audience, she reveals that she is sure of winning the King over to her way of thinking, since he always submits to the wrongs she does him in order to keep her friendship.
Left alone with Posthumus, Imogen gives him a diamond ring, which belonged to her mother. She asks him to keep it until he woos another wife, after she herself is dead. He protests that he only wants one wife - Imogen - and that he would die sooner than take another. He puts the ring on her finger and also gives her a bracelet to wear for his sake.
As Imogen wonders when they will meet again, Cymbeline comes in, furious to see Posthumus still there. Posthumus leaves with a blessing on "the good remainders of the court" (line 60). The King then charges Imogen with disloyalty, but Imogen advises him not to harm himself with his wrath; she is senseless of it, since parting from her husband is a greater pain. He accuses her of bringing "baseness" on his throne by taking a "beggar" for her husband; she insists that she has added "lustre" to it (line 74). She points out that it is Cymbeline's fault that she loves Posthumus, as Cymbeline brought them up together, and adds that Posthumus is "a man worth any woman" (line 77).
As the Queen enters, Cymbeline scolds her for disobeying his command and allowing the couple to meet. The Queen asks the King to leave her with them, which he does.
Pisanio, Posthumus's servant, comes in and tells the Queen that her son Cloten has drawn his sword on Posthumus. Posthumus was not incited to anger and did not try to hurt Cloten; others parted them. Imogen wishes they had been in some lonely place and that the fight had been concluded, presumably with the destruction of Cloten. Posthumus has sent Pisanio back to serve Imogen. Imogen asks him to come and see her in half an hour's time.
The King is consumed by anger that his ambitions for his daughter have been thwarted, and the Queen is engaged in scheming for her own selfish ends. It is left to the young couple, Imogen and Posthumus, to act from a basis of love and selflessness. Our sympathies are with them, and this is reinforced by Posthumus's generous treatment of Cloten, whom he avoids harming in a fight even though Cloten was the aggressor.
The theme of appearance versus reality is developed further. Imogen refers to the Queen's "dissembling courtesy" (line 15), as she sees that the Queen is really self-serving underneath her pretended support for the newly-wed couple. The Queen reveals her hypocritical nature in an aside which tells the audience that she plays upon the King's emotions for her own ends (lines 35-7).
The contrast between outward rank and inward worth is brought home in Cymbeline's accusation that Posthumus is a base "beggar" since he is low-born, whereas Imogen protests his true worth.
It is worth noting in this scene that Imogen wishes that she were a goatherd's daughter, and Posthumus a shepherd's son. The theme of the innocence and purity of the countryside and its dwellers contrasted with the corruption of the court is a traditional one of Romance plays.


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