Innogen. Again

The play may be called Cymbeline, but he’s not the protagonist. I suppose you might make an argument for Posthumus, but I think most would say the play revolves around our gal Innogen.

People love her.

Painters dug her.

Souchon, 1872
Schmalz, late 1800s

Critics were all over themselves.

Critic William Hazlitt wrote, “Of all Shakespeare’s women she is perhaps the most tender and the most artless.” I think this is a compliment, if he’s using the term to mean “Without guile; sincere, ingenuous” (“artless, adj.; 2.b” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2017.), and not “Unpractised, inexperienced; unskilled, ignorant” (artless, adj.; 1.a” OED Online), which is a mixed bag, or “Constructed or designed without skill or art; crude, clumsy, inartistic” (artless, adj.; 3″ OED Online), which is just bad.

Algernon Charles Swinburne said that “the woman above all Shakespeare’s women is Imogen … half glorified already the immortal godhead of womanhood.”

Harold Bloom goes further, saying she “almost alone in Shakespeare’s late romances is represented with something of the inwardness that had been the playwright’s greatest strength,” and who “deserves to have been in a better play.”

And hell, legend has it that Tennyson died with the book open on his lap.

What the heck am I missing here?

I mean, she’s all right (though I like Shaw’s version of her better). I just don’t get it.

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