Tales From Shakespeare
During the time of Augustus Caesar, Emperor of Rome, there reigned in England (which
was then called Britain) a king whose name was Cymbeline.
Cymbeline's first wife died when his three children (two sons and a daughter) were very
young. Imogen, the eldest of these children, was brought up in her father's court; but by a
strange chance the two sons of Cymbeline were stolen out of their nursery when the
eldest was but three years of age and the youngest quite an infant; and Cymbeline could
never discover what was become of them or by whom they were conveyed away.
Cymbeline was twice married. His second wife was a wicked, plotting woman, and a
cruel stepmother to Imogen, Cymbeline's daughter by his first wife.
The queen, though she hated Imogen, yet wished her to marry a son of her own by a
former husband (she also having been twice married), for by this means she hoped upon
the death of Cymbeline to place the crown of Britain upon the head of her son Cloten; for
she knew that, if the king's sons were not found, the Princess Imogen must be the king's
heir. But this design was prevented by Imogen herself, who married without the consent
or even knowledge of her father or the queen.
Posthumus (for that was the name of Imogen's husband) was the best scholar and most
accomplished gentleman of that age. His father died fighting in the wars for Cymbeline,
and soon after his birth his mother died also for grief at the loss of her husband.
Cymbeline, pitying the helpless state of this orphan, took Posthumus (Cymbeline having
given him that name because he was born after his father's death), and educated him in
his own court.
Imogen and Posthumus were both taught by the same masters, and were playfellows from
their infancy; they loved each other tenderly when they were children, and, their affection
continuing to increase with their years, when they grew up they privately married.
The disappointed queen soon learned this secret, for she kept spies constantly in watch
upon the actions of her stepdaughter, and she immediately told the king of the marriage
of Imogen with Posthumus.
Nothing could exceed the wrath of Cymbeline when he heard that his daughter had been
so forgetful of her high dignity as to marry a subject. He commanded Posthumus to leave
Britain and banished him from his native country forever.
The queen, who pretended to pity Imogen for the grief she suffered at losing her husband,
offered to procure them a private meeting before Posthumus set out on his journey to