Midpoint: dramatic, not thematic?

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Cymbeline.

There are 3288 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1644, or at Act Three, Scene Four, line 185. According to Dr. Rodes’ theory, you could find at this midpoint–or within twenty lines either way–a speech that perfectly sums up a major theme of the play (the 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions).

In Act Three, Scene Four, Innogen and Pisanio arrive in the woods outside Milford Haven. Pisanio shows her his letter, his commandment from Posthumus, and it rocks her world. Only not in a good way. Devastated, she even attempts to get Pisanio to kill her to end her misery. Only he doesn’t. Instead, he wants to fake her death to send proof of it to Posthumus, which will also explain her absence from the court. Additionally, he plans to have Innogen, disguised as a man, meet with the invading Roman army led by Lucius, join his group, and then head out of the country, back to Italy, maybe even to a point where she will be able to see her husband. She agrees.

The midpoint comes during this exchange of plans. In the twenty lines before, we learn that Pisanio has packed men’s clothes that she can wear; and Innogen voices her resignation to the plan. In the twenty that follow, Pisanio gives her the drug given to him by the Queen…remember this is what the queen thinks is deadly poison, but is actually a just a Friar Laurence-like potion that will fake death (the doctor not trusting the queen); of course, she has told Pisanio that it is a kind of panacea, a curative (and he trusts her enough to believe her).

So we get one of those narrative-based midpoints, full of plot, but themes?

I’m not so sure.

The exact midpoint ends the following sentence by Innogen: “This attempt / I am soldier to, and will abide it with / A prince’s courage” (III.iv.183-5). There’s a lot of old-school gender expectation going on there. She’s a woman, but she’s about to change garb to appear as a man. She’s sending Pisanio away, and stating that she will act as a soldier, as brave as a prince. Is it simply a matter saying, “I’ll dress as a man and act as a man”?

Specific terms: “soldier,” “prince.” Belarius was a soldier under the king Cymbeline. Both Arviragus and Guiderius are princes, the latter the crown prince. If she dresses as a man, but stays herself, then she becomes a prince in a sense.

I don’t think it’s a dramaturgical coincidence that this scene comes hot off the heels of the scene in which we meet Belarius and the boys, whom “nature prompts…to prince it much / Beyond the trick of others” (III.iii.84, 85-6). Blood will out.

We’re supposed to make the connection. And Shakespeare adds more connective tissue by what Pisanio says in response to this midpoint speech: he needs to return to the palace “lest, being missed, [he] be suspected of / [Her] carriage from the court” (III.iv.187-8); in other words, lest he be accused as Belarius was (and rightfully so).

But unless I’m missing something here, this midpoint kind of fails the Rodes test…its importance is dramatic, narrative, not thematic.

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