To remark on the folly of the fiction, the absurdity of the conduct, the confusion of the names and manners of different times, and the impossibility of the events in any system of life, were to waste criticism upon unresisting imbecility, upon faults too evident for detection, and too gross for aggravation.
– Samuel Johnson, 1765
Cymbeline is one of the most delightful of Shakespeare's historical plays ... The reading of this play is like going on a journey with some uncertain object at the end of it.
– William Hazlitt, 1817
It would be a waste of words to refute certain critics who have accused Shakespeare of a want of judgment in the adaptation of the story ... The truth is, that Shakespeare has wrought out of the material before him with the most luxuriant fancy and the most wonderful skill. As for the various anachronisms, and the confusion of names, dates, and manners over which Dr. Johnson exults in no measure terms, the confusion is nowhere but in his own heavy obtuseness of sentiment and perception, and his want of poetical faith.
– Mrs. Anna Brownell Jameson, 1833
Shakespeare, we may well say, has here sought to give a poetical illustration of the proposition—man is not master of his own lot, which is unquestionably as true as its contrary. Thus considered, the poem becomes at once thoroughly intelligible, and no single figure in it appears superfluous; every movement necessary and each single character indispensable.
– Herman Ulrici, 1839, a German scholar of philosophy
I confess to a difficulty in feeling civilized just at present. Flying from the country, were the gentlemen of England are in an ecstasy of chicken-butchering, I return to town to find the higher wits assembled at a play three hundred years old, in which the sensation scene exhibits a woman waking up to find her husband reposing gorily in her arms with his head cut off.
– George Bernard Shaw, 1896
[Cymbeline] exceeds even Troilus and Cressida in defying classification, being the strangest mixture of authentic history, legendary history, medieval romance, pastoral, comedy, tragedy, and half-a-dozen other things. Neat, orderly, common-sense, and historical minds ought properly to be driven frantic by it, as, for other reasons, should minds that insist that a play should always remain a play. With poets, on the contrary, it is a favorite.
-Harold C. Goddard, 1951
It is one of the most hopeful notes in Shakespeare that, however transiently, men like Iago, Edmund, Iachimo, and Cloten find that they cannot leave the compelling power of purity out of account.
– Harold C. Goddard, 1951
I believe that Cymbeline, no less than the last works of Beethoven, is a comprehensive piece of impressionism, that it finally expresses something which Shakespeare never quite achieves elsewhere, and that ... it must yet be reckoned among his supreme utterances.
– J. M. Nosworthy, 1955
Shakespeare's tragedies are the necessary prelude to the romances; the romances are inconceivable without the tragedies.
– Cyrus Hoy
I realized that poor Posthumus had so much to live up to that he had to take a tumble, sooner or later. Being famous at too early an age is a gift that only the most resilient prodigy can handle.
– Actor Roger Rees about his role as Posthumus, 1985/p>
The acts of any romance invite us to look within ourselves for significances that may be sexual, social, or spiritual but are not literal. Like our more personal dreams, [the Romances] enable us to participate under the illusion of safe distance in the universal cycles that undergird us and unfold in our individual stories.
– Elizabeth Beieman, 1990
– Contributed by the CST Education Department