Internet Shakespeare Editions



A Celtic carving.

Legend . . .

The legendary Cymbeline (Cunobelinus) was the nephew of Cassibellaunus, King of the Britons. After Julius Caesar's second invasion of Britain (55 B.C.), Cymbeline was taken as a hostage to Rome, where he was raised as a Roman. He was later installed upon the throne of Britain; unlike Shakespeare's Cymbeline, he remained a loyal ally of Rome until his death.

According to the legend, when Cunobelinus died, the kingdom was divided between his two sons, Guiderius and Arvigarus. Their refusal to pay tribute to Rome led to another invasion, during which Guiderius was killed. (See the similar division of the kingdom as planned in Henry IV, Part One.)

. . . And history

The historic Cymbeline, Cunobelinus, was King of the Catuvellauni tribe, which was centred in Hertfordshire; he maintained friendly relations with Rome until the reign of the emperor Caligula (A.D. 37-41), when one of the king's sons (Adminius), expelled from Britain, submitted himself formally to the emperor. Caligula then claimed the surrender of Britain and prepared an invasion force; but it was only in A.D. 43, during the reign of Claudius, that the conquest began.

Since Cunobelinus had died two years before, resistance to the Romans was led by his courageous sons Caractacus and Togodumnus; but they were defeated and Caractacus was taken prisoner to Rome. England became the Roman province Britannia, with its capital at Camulodunum (Colchester).