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Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

Cymbeline (1609)

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,272169,530 (3.55)34



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English (15)  Swedish (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
"Cymbeline" I considered a difficult play to stage until a surprisingly coherent version at the Huntington Theater, in 1991 when my grad school classmate Peter Altman ran the show, the theater. But reading it under the Trumpster makes all Iachimo’s lies problematic; our context changes the register of the play, disenchants it.

So many Shakespeare villains articulate truths, like Iago, and here, the clod Cloten, whose assault on the married Imogen gave me the title to my book on Shakespeare and popular culture, which I called "Meaner Parties."* Cloten says of her marriage to Leonatus, “It is no contract, none;/ And though it be allowed in meaner parties…to knit their souls,/ On whom there is no more dependency/ But brats and beggary, in self-figur’d knot,/ Yet you are curbed…by the consequence of a crown…”(II.iii.116ff) He refers to canon law’s accepting, in York Dean Swinburne’s Of Spousals, handshake marriages—as long as there were witnesses to the vows spoken along with the ring or token. By the way, three centuries before DeBeers, engagement and marriage rings weren't distinct; both could be military or wax-sealrings.
A couple scenes prior to Cloten here, Iachimo comes to England with a letter of endorsement, part of a bet, from Posthumus Leonatus (I.vi). Posthumus had been exiled to Italy by Cymbelene for displacing the new queen’s execrable son Cloten in Imogen’s affection—in fact, marrying her.

As in Merchant of Venice, where Shylock compares his daughter and his ducats, his dearest possessions, Posthumous compares Imogen’s gift ring and herself; to Iachimo’s taunt, “I have not seen the most precious diamond that there is, nor you the lady,” Posthumus rejoins, “I praised her as I rated her: so do I my stone.” Iachimo even refers to Imogen as “she your jewel” to accompany the diamond, “this your jewel”(I.iv.153).
Having set up so close a comparison—indeed, an identity— between the token jewel and the lover jewel, no wonder Posthumus falls apart when Iachimo brings back the bracelet he’d stolen from Imogen. Posthumus’s friend Philario notes he is “Quite beyond the government of patience!”(II.iv.150)—rather like a certain new Supreme Court judge.
Later confessing to King Cymbeline’s inquiry, “How came it yours?” about the diamond on his finger, Iachimo blurts out that he defamed Imogen with token evidence,
“that he could not / But think her bond of chastity quite crack’d,/ I having taken this forfeit”(V.v.206). Posthumus need not have so concluded had he not merged token and person so strongly in his own mind.
But Renaissance marriage-court records fill with rings and bracelets betokening contract, whereas in fact it was the words accompanying the token, the vow, that counted in law. What we call domestic court were then in church, canon courts like Deacon Swinburne’s in York Minster (the room still exists, with three judge chairs on a raised dias, now used as a vestry).
Shakespeare’s plays feature tokens and vows. Cymbeline could have learned how to run a ring court from the King of France in All’s Well. And of course Twelfth Night boasts the most rings of the Bard’s plays. (See my “Early Modern Rings and Vows in TN,” in Twelfth Night: New Critical Essays (NY: Routledge, 2011), ed. James Schiffer. Note: I quote from my old Harrison edition, which uses Iachimo, not Jachimo.

* "meaner" in Elizabethan usage, lower status "parties" (in the legal sense)...average Joes and Jo's ( )
  AlanWPowers | Nov 6, 2018 |
Overall I enjoyed this story, in my schooling life we were assigned & read all the tragedies. It’s wasn’t until college that I really understood that Shakespeare wrote other things, besides tragedy & sonnets. So I always find myself pleasantly surprised when I reach an actual happy ending.😂 ( )
  RivetedReaderMelissa | Mar 22, 2018 |
Comparative prompt (that could include Cymbeline) for 117S:

Vested Interests

How is cross-dressing used in two plays? What are the effects of changing clothes? Consider genre—what tragic or comedic elements (such as sacrifice and marriage) result from cross-dressing? How are gender bending and crossing class/national boundaries different and/or similar? How do historical elements, such as boys playing female roles on the renaissance stage, impact how the reader views cross-dressing? Please craft a focused argument, supported with close readings of the texts, in response to one or more of these (or other) questions.
  Marjorie_Jensen | Nov 12, 2015 |
I sensed that Shakespeare trying to reuse his favorite dramatic devices, including: jealous lovers, wronged women, plucky heroines, male impersonation, scheming villains, idyllic landscapes, wise clowns. I also couldn't help noticing that, although the Bard called the play a tragedy, he was using a romantic comedy / adventure plot. He also gave the "tragedy" a happy ending, albeit a very complicated one. He had to unwind a large number of plot entanglements in one act. I found that complicated to read and wondered how it could be staged without turning into a train wreck. Despite that, I quite enjoyed reading the play, a rousing adventure with great characters. I thought was a vast improvement over the collaborations and a welcome lightening of tone. ( )
  Coach_of_Alva | Nov 29, 2014 |
Willie seems to have been fixated on men who don't trust their wives. Maybe Anne was fooling around on him. Kind of a weird meandering story. Too many elements to maintain my interest. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I confess to a difficulty in feeling civilized just at present. Flying from the country, where 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. Pray understand, therefore, that I do not defend Cymbeline. It is for the most part stagey trash of the lowest melodramatic order, in parts abominably written, throughout intellectually vulgar, and, judged in point of thought by modern intellectual standards, vulgar, foolish, offensive, indecent, and exasperating beyond all tolerance.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Saturday Review, George Bernard Shaw (Sep 26, 1896)

» Add other authors (49 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cajander, PaavoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hudson, Henry N.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nosworthy, J. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rolfe, William JamesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
You do not meet a man but frowns: our bloods

No more obey the heavens then our courtiers

Still seem as does the king.
First Gentleman. You do not meet a man but frowns.
our bloods
No more obey the heavens than our courtiers
Still seem as does the King.
Second Gentleman. But what’s the matter?
First Gentleman. His daughter, and the heir of his
kingdom, whom
He purposed to his wife’s sole son—a widow
That late he married—has referred herself
Unto a poor but worthy gentleman. She’s wedded,
Her husband banished, she imprisoned; all
Is outward sorrow; though I think the King
Be touched at very heart.
No, 'tis slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie
All corners of the world.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete Cymbeline only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or simplifications (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Cymbeline, an early British king, seeks to marry his daughter to his new stepson; she, however, prefers the adopted son whom Cymbeline has exiled — and she runs away to find him. The stepson hunts for them both, but, dressed in the beloved's clothes, is beheaded. When she awakens, she fears the worst. Her woods companions turn out to be the man who had kidnapped Cymbeline's own two baby sons years before, now grown. When they return to help the British fight off the Romans seeking their annual tribute, the kidnapper is a hero, but confesses to Cymbeline and his sons. All are finally reconciled.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067172259X, Mass Market Paperback)

FOLGER Shakespeare Library

The world's leading center for Shakespeare studies.

Each edition includes:

Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

Scene-by-scene plot summaries

A key to famous lines and phrases

An introduction to reading Shakespeare's language

An essay by an outstanding scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

Illustrations from the Folger Shakespeare Library's vast holdings of rare books

Essay by Cynthia Marshall

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is home to the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit www.folger.edu.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:26 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Posthumus, has secretly married his childhood friend Imogen, daughter of King Cymbeline. Cymbeline, upon finding out, banishes Posthumus from the kingdom. Iachimo, a soldier in the Roman army, makes a bet with Posthumus that he can tempt Imogen to be unfaithful. He sneaks into her bedchamber and steels her bracelet. Then he tells Posthumus he has won the bet, offering the bracelet as proof. Posthumus orders his faithful servant Pisanio to murder Imogen. Pisanio warns her instead, then helps her fake her death, and to disguise herself as a boy.… (more)

» see all 12 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714723, 0140707425

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