At Cymbeline's palace, Lucius is asking Cymbeline to honor the three thousand pounds a year tribute agreed with Cymbeline's uncle when Julius Caesar conquered Britain. The Queen says it will never be paid. Cloten adds that it is unlikely that there will be another Caesar like Julius; Britain is "a world by itself," and its people will not pay "for wearing our own noses." The Queen urges the King not to pay, on the grounds that Britain is a natural fortress, protected by the sea on all sides, and even Julius Caesar was twice defeated before his final victory over the Britons. Cloten says that Britain is stronger than it was at that time. Unless Caesar "can hide the sun from us with a blanket", in which case Britons would pay him a tribute for light, they do not see why they should pay. Cymbeline says that Julius Caesar's ambition enabled him to dominate Britain, but it befits a warlike people to throw off the yoke.
Lucius, on behalf of Augustus Caesar, declares war on Britain.
Confirming the Queen's earlier statement that she is always able to win the King to her way of thinking, Cymbeline takes a back seat to the Queen in the talks with Lucius, at one point asking Cloten to stop talking and let her finish. This would have been seen as an unnatural departure from the proper order in Shakespeare's time, because Cymbeline is the sovereign monarch and because he is male. In spite of the fact that England was then being ruled by a woman (Elizabeth I), it was generally believed that men, not women, were created to govern countries, and that within a marriage, men should govern their wives.
Even Cloten speaks more forcefully in this scene than Cymbeline. The fact that it is the Queen and her unintelligent son who are leading the opposition to the Romans does not inspire confidence in the outcome of the war.
Cymbeline: Novel Summary: Act 3 Scene 1