Spot the Rogue Plot Element (Cymbeline Edition)

I occasionally get asked what is my favorite play. This is, of course, an almost impossible question for me to answer, but I must declare primary allegiance to the history plays, which first ignited my passion for Shakespeare and thus will always occupy the first chapter of my heart (with the exception of Henry VIII, which is, in all honesty, kind of boring.)

However, one play that I am inordinately fond of that often gets overlooked is Cymbeline. If you've never heard of Cymbeline, don't worry. You're not alone. It is one of the most obscure Shakespeare plays and is very rarely performed. This is a pity, as it is, essentially, a "Best Of" compilation of all of Shakespeare's greatest cliches and dramatic tropes. Here, take this quick quiz and see how you do:

There are more ludicrous plot elements that I had to leave out for time's sake, but you get the general idea. Cymbeline is not really a comedy, but is definitely not a tragedy. It's more of a riotous melodrama, and its final scene is probably my favorite single scene in all of Shakespeare. 

No, there aren't any dinosaurs in Cymbeline. However, I am sure that if Shakespeare had known about dinosaurs, he would have figured out how to squeeze in one or two of them.

There also aren't any drug-dealing biker gangs in Cymbeline, but don't tell Ethan Hawke that

Premature Burial

So, this is a recurring issue in the Shakespearean canon:

I know Elizabethan medicine wasn't exactly state-of-the-art, but I'm constantly appalled at how readily people jump to conclusion of "Oh no, she's dead, let's dump the body somewhere" after someone falls over. Then again, these are the same people who say "You know, it's remarkable how you, a boy, look exactly like a girl, but are, in fact, totally a boy".

What I'm saying is that Shakespeare's characters are criminally unobservant. That's what I'm saying. 

Three-Panel Plays, part 3

It's time for some more "editing with extreme prejudice" in the third installment of my Three-Panel Plays series! 

Oh no, it's Coriolanus again. I'm pretty sure we're all very familiar with Coriolanus now, thank you very much. 


Cymbeline is such a busy play that I had to chop out 90% of it to make it fit in three panels. I'm now itching to do a full-length guide to Cymbeline, because it's an adorable play that deserves more than three panels and I love it. 

Stop by on Monday to see how I handle Hamlet and Henry IV, part 1 ! 

See all Three-Panel Plays here!

A Comprehensive Guide to Shakespearean Cross-Dressers


Obviously, as all female roles were played by men in Elizabethan times, there were technically a lot more cross-dressers in Shakespeare, but these are the ones that cross-dressed in the context of a play. Viola and Rosalind are the really plum roles, but one of my personal favorites is Innogen from Cymbeline. She is really put through the metaphorical wringer. Special mention to Julia, who exclaims "O ME UNHAPPY!" and then faints dramatically, which, if you're going to faint, is the way to do it.