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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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PLOT (STRUCTURE)

Act I of Cymbeline serves as the exposition for the whole play. In this act the audience is informed by a discussion between two lords that the king is displeased over his daughter's marriage to Posthumus, whom he thinks is below her in social standing. Because of this, Posthumus is sent into exile. The rise in action occurs in Act I, Scene 4. This scene is important because the main action of the play turns on the wager that takes place in this scene.

In Act II the action gathers momentum and moves fast towards the crisis. Here the audience witnesses the rise in the play's action with Iachimo's stealthy entry into Imogen's chamber. Iachimo's tricky job of observing Imogen in close quarters and stealing her bracelet take place. When Iachimo discloses his conquest to Posthumus, the play moves towards its crisis.

The complications of the plot re-enact their tragic climax in Act III, Scene 4. In this scene Pisanio discloses to Imogen why she was requested by Posthumus to leave the palace. Imogen is no doubt shocked to hear the charges against her. The last scene of this Act prepares the audience for the Roman invasion, which is a means for bringing Posthumus back to Britain. This is important to bring about the denouement.

In Act IV the action slowly moves towards the denouement. Cloten, one of the agents of all the complications in the plot, is killed off in this Act. Cloten's pursuit of Imogen in Posthumus' clothes and his intention to rape and kill her serves quite a different dramatic purpose. Imogen mistakes the headless body of Cloten for that of Posthumus's.


In Act V the audience is presented with the outcome. In the combat between Posthumus and Iachimo, Iachimo is not killed because he is needed for the denoument. He reappears later as a repentant villain. The outcome is comic, because Imogen's honor and life are saved at the end. Her reputation cleared. Her love is restored and her husband is recovered. In this way the various kinds of wrongdoing are reversed and order is restored.

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