Category Archives: Cymbeline

Cymbeline – Authorship: All Bill’s

So, for those who’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you know I’ve been loving the New Oxford Shakespeare Authorship Companion. It gives us a great look at the latest research as to who may have assisted Shakespeare in the composition of the plays.

Much was made last fall of the announcement, based on this work, that the three Henry VI plays are more co-compositions with Christopher Marlowe, with the first part actually being more the work of Marlowe.

So what does the Authorship Companion have to say about Cymbeline?

Continue reading Cymbeline – Authorship: All Bill’s

Cymbeline Friday Film Focus: 2014, Almereyda

Another early summer Friday, another new release. Out in the world, it’s Baywatch and the latest Pirates of the Caribbean. For us, another new–or rather old–video version of Cymbeline. And this week, it’s the 2014 theatrical release, directed by Michael Almereyda, and starring Ethan Hawke, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, and Penn Badgley.

Continue reading Cymbeline Friday Film Focus: 2014, Almereyda

So you think you can out-write Shakespeare?

OK, so. Let’s say you’re a Shakespeare fan. Think he’s a genius. But there’s this one play. In your opinion, it’s not just not good, not even just bad, but

stagey trash of the lowest melodramatic order, in parts abominably written, throughout intellectually vulgar, and, judged in point of thought by modem intellectual standards, vulgar, foolish, offensive, indecent and exasperating beyond all tolerance.

[jeez, tell us what you really think]

Now, as your grow older, you mellow a bit, seeing the play as “one of the finest of Shakespeare’s later plays now on the stage, [before it] goes to pieces in the last act.”

So what do you do?

Well, if you’re George Bernard Shaw and that play is Cymbeline, you rewrite said act.

Continue reading So you think you can out-write Shakespeare?

Friday Film Focus: Cymbeline (1913)

It’s May and a Friday, which means a new early (really early) summer blockbuster is being released. A couple of weeks back, it was the latest Guardians of the Galaxy flick. Today, something a little different: the 1913 silent film version of Cymbeline!

OK, so it’s not a theatrical release…but it’s our play under discussion, so just go with me, willya?

Continue reading Friday Film Focus: Cymbeline (1913)

Cymbeline: Act Five – Thanks, Jupiter!

previously…in Cymbeline:

In Act One, British king Cymbeline’s daughter Imogen has enraged her father by marrying Posthumus; instead, the king wanted her to marry the son of his new wife. The king has imprisoned bride and banished the groom. We learn that Imogen has two older brothers both kidnapped as toddlers, whereabouts unknown. In Rome, Posthumus speaks lovingly of Imogen’s beauty and virtue. A local, Iachimo challenges Posthumus: Iachimo will travel to Britain and will attempt to sleep with Imogen. If he succeeds, Posthumus will give up his ring (one given to him by Imogen); if Iachimo fails, then he must pay Posthumus ten thousand ducats, plus agree to a duel that Posthumus demands. Back in Britain, the Queen attempts to hire Pisanio away from Posthumus, even offering what she says a curative potion, only she thinks it’s a poison, but it’s actually one that will resemble death. As Imogen bemoans her state, Iachimo arrives, intimating Posthumus as been less than faithful in Rome, and suggests that she sexually revenge herself on Posthumus. She immediately calls Iachimo out on his deceit; he apologizes, and she agrees to storing Iachimo’s trunk in her room overnight.

In Act Two, when Imogen goes to bed, that chest opens and he emerges. He creeps about her room, talking of touching her, kissing her, writing down everything he sees, in hopes of using these details to win his bet. He takes the bracelet Posthumus gave Imogen, and takes note of a mole on her left breast. He then pops back into the trunk as daylight comes. Cloten and his lords arrive beneath Imogen’s window for a serenade. It really doesn’t work, and she tells him that she cares for Posthumus’ worst suit more than for Cloten. In Rome, Iachimo convinces Posthumus of Imogen’s infidelity.

Act Three begins with the Britons’ refusal of Rome’s demand of tribute, presaging war. Pisanio receives a letter from Posthumus demanding that the servant murder Imogen for her infidelity; he also sent one to Imogen, directing her to Wales, where he claims to have sneaked back into the country (and where Pisanio can kill her). In the woods of Wales, the king’s kidnapped two sons and their kidnapper are living as a family. Imogen and Pisanio arrive in the woods, where Imogen asks repeatedly for Posthumus, and a tormented Pisanio gives her his letter from Posthumus. She is incredulous, turning from shock to anger. Pisanio suggests that she dress as a man and stay in the woods, and present herself to Lucius (whose Roman army is heading to Wales), join his service, and thus gain access to transportation away. In case she gets injured, Pisanio gives her the drug the queen gave him. Pisanio returns to the castle and is questioned by the Queen’s son. Cloten reads Imogen’s letter from Posthumus, then orders Pisanio to bring Posthumus’ clothes: he’s going to go to Milford Haven, dressed as Posthumus, rape Imogen, then kill Posthumus in her presence, then drag her back to the castle. Back in the woods of Wales, Imogen and the three woodsmen meet. They ask her to join them, treating her like a brother.

Act Four of Cymbeline opens with Cloten arriving in the Welsh woods, wearing Posthumus’ clothes, and noting in soliloquy how well they fit him. Then he reiterates his plan to kill Posthumus and rape Imogen. The second scene opens with the unknowingly reunited “brothers” of the king (Imogen is pretending to be a boy, Fidele). Imogen is not feeling well, so the brothers tell her to stay in the cave. She takes some of “the potion” and enters the cave, while the three remaining men continue praising the youth in her/his absence. Into this scene enters Cloten. Belarius (faux father) recognizes him, and instantly worries that Cloten’s brought others; he and the younger brother Arviragus go looking, while Cloten tries to intimidate the other brother, Guiderius. Cloten insults the heir, the heir doesn’t take it kindly, and the two exit the stage fighting. Meanwhile, “father” and brother return from finding no one, to find their place abandoned, too. And Guiderius returns with Cloten’s head. Belarius freaks out. Guiderius leaves to dispose of the head by throwing in the creek. The little brother goes to wake Fidele/Imogen for dinner, only to return with “dead Fidele” in his arms. They decide to bury Fidele and Cloten; Belarius retrieves Cloten’s body and lays it next to Imogen, and the three of them leave to dig the graves. Imogen wakes up, a little disoriented. She finds the dead headless body next to her, and recognizes the clothes. When she ponders what has happened, she jumps to the conclusion that Pisanio and Cloten joined forces, Pisanio using the knock-out drug on Imogen, while Cloten found, killed, and decapitated Posthumus. Enter Lucius and his Roman army and they find Imogen over the body of Cloten. “Fidele” says that this body is “his” master’s; Lucius, impressed by the boy’s loyalty, takes the boy into their fold for protection, and orders his soldiers to bury the body. The third scene of the act has Cymbeline musing on the Queen suffering an illness over the disappearance of her son. The fourth and final scene of the fourth act takes us back to Wales, where war is approaching. The two younger men convince Belarius to join with the Britons and fight for their nation.

The final act of Cymbeline begins Continue reading Cymbeline: Act Five – Thanks, Jupiter!

Podcast 153: Cymbeline — intro and plot synopsis

[archive]

This week’s podcast kicks off our two-month discussion of Cymbeline. We’re going to start off with a economy-sized plot synopsis–because, MAN, there’s a lot of plot in this play–continue with a little introduction, and include a bit of shameless self-promotion.

Continue reading Podcast 153: Cymbeline — intro and plot synopsis

Cymbeline: Act Four – don’t lose your head, er mind…

previously…in Cymbeline:

In Act One, British king Cymbeline’s daughter Imogen has enraged her father by marrying Posthumus; instead, the king wanted her to marry the son of his new wife. The king has imprisoned bride and banished the groom. We learn that Imogen has two older brothers both kidnapped as toddlers, whereabouts unknown. In Rome, Posthumus speaks lovingly of Imogen’s beauty and virtue. A local, Iachimo challenges Posthumus: Iachimo will travel to Britain and will attempt to sleep with Imogen. If he succeeds, Posthumus will give up his ring (one given to him by Imogen); if Iachimo fails, then he must pay Posthumus ten thousand ducats, plus agree to a duel that Posthumus demands. Back in Britain, the Queen attempts to hire Pisanio away from the absent Posthumus, even offering what she says is a curative potion, only she thinks it’s a poison, but it’s actually one that will resemble death. As Imogen bemoans her state, Iachimo arrives, intimating Posthumus as been less than faithful in Rome, and suggests that she sexually revenge herself on Posthumus. She immediately calls Iachimo out on his deceit; he apologizes, and she agrees to storing Iachimo’s trunk in her room overnight.

In Act Two, when Imogen goes to bed, that chest opens and Iachimo emerges. He creeps about her room, talking of touching her, kissing her, writing down everything he sees, using these details to win his bet. He takes the bracelet Posthumus gave Imogen, and takes note of a mole on her left breast. He then pops back into the trunk as daylight comes. Cloten and his lords arrive beneath Imogen’s window for a serenade. It really doesn’t work, and she tells him that she cares for Posthumus’ worst suit more than Cloten. In Rome, Iachimo convinces Posthumus of Imogen’s infidelity.

Act Three begins with a state meeting between Cymbeline and his court and the representatives of the Roman emperor Augustus. When the Britons refuse Rome’s demand of tribute, their leader Lucius proclaims then that Augustus in now Britain’s enemy. Pisanio receives a letter from Posthumus outlining Imogen’s betrayal, and demanding that the servant murder her; he sent a second letter to Imogen directing her to meet him Milford Haven in Wales, where he claims to have sneaked back into the country (and where Pisanio can kill her). Happy, she hatches a plan for her and Pisanio to escape to Wales. In the woods of Wales, three men live as father and sons. Only it turns out this is the king’s man and the king’s two sons. Imogen and Pisanio arrive in the woods outside Milford Haven. Imogen asks repeatedly for Posthumus, and a tormented Pisanio gives her his letter from Posthumus. She is incredulous, turning from shock to anger. Pisanio says that bringing her to the woods was a delaying tactic so that he could come up with a plan, which is for her to dress as a man and stay in the woods, then he can return to announce her death. He thinks she can present herself to Lucius (whose army is heading to Wales), join his service, and thus gain access to transportation away. In case she gets injured, Pisanio give her the drug the queen gave her. Pisanio returns to the castle and is questioned by the Queen’s son. Pisanio presents to Cloten the letter from Posthumus to Imogen, commanding her to go to Milford Haven. Cloten “convinces” Pisanio to work for him (Pisanio accepts to keep an eye on Cloten), and orders his new man to bring Posthumus’ clothes: he’s going to go to Milford Haven, dressed as Posthumus, rape Imogen, then kill Posthumus in her presence, then drag her back to the castle. Back in the woods of Wales, Imogen and the three woodsmen meet. They ask her to join them, treating her like a brother (oh, irony). And with that, and the Romans about to invade Wales, Act Three ends.

Act Four of Cymbeline opens Cloten arriving in the Welsh woods, wearing Posthumus’ clothes, and noting in soliloquy how well they fit him. Then he reiterates his plan:

Posthumus, thy head, which now is growing upon thy shoulders, shall within this hour be off, thy mistress enforced, thy garments cut to pieces before thy face; and all this done, spurn her home to her father…
  • IV.i14-8

Charming.
Continue reading Cymbeline: Act Four – don’t lose your head, er mind…

Cymbeline: Act Three – into the woods

previously…in Cymbeline:

In Act One, we learn that in ancient Britain, king Cymbeline’s heir and daughter Imogen has enraged her father by marrying Posthumus; instead, the king wanted her to marry the son of his new wife. The newly-wed couple is separated: by her in-castle imprisonment and his banishment. And the Queen’s son, Cloten, desires Imogen as well…so much so that he attempts to attack Posthumus on his way out of town. Meanwhile, we learn that Imogen was not Cymbeline’s only child. There were two older sons, both kidnapped as toddlers, some twenty years ago; no one knows where they are now. In Rome, Posthumus speaks lovingly of Imogen’s beauty and virtue. A local, Iachimo challenges Posthumus: Iachimo will travel to Britain and will attempt to sleep with Imogen. If he succeeds, Posthumus will give up his ring (the one given to him by Imogen); if Iachimo fails, then he must pay Posthumus ten thousand ducats, plus agree to a duel that Posthumus demands. Back in Britain, the Queen has had a doctor create a killing drug. What she doesn’t know, however, is that the doctor has created not a poison, but a potion that “will stupefy and dull the sense awhile” (I.v.37), looking like death, but from which the taker will awake later. Add another gun to Chekhov’s arsenal. She attempts to hire Posthumus’ servant Pisanio, even giving him the potion, which she tells him is actually a cure, one that has “the king / Five times redeemed from death” (I.v.62-3). When she leaves, however, he reveals in aside that he doesn’t trust her, and will remain true to Posthumus. As Imogen bemoans her state, who should arrive but Iachimo. He intimates that Posthumus as been less than faithful in Rome, and suggests that she revenge herself on Posthumus, and when she asks how she should do this, Iachimo says she could use him, conveniently enough, as he is willing to “dedicate [him]self to [her] sweet pleasure” (I.vi.136). She immediately calls Iachimo out on his deceit, saying that if he were honorable, he would have told her for virtue, not “for such an end [he] seek’st, as base as strange” (I.vi.144). Caught, he tells her that Posthumus is a lucky man, and that he had done this as a test of her loyalty. He apologizes profusely, and she accepts him. As he is about to leave her, he asks if a trunk that contains a gift for the Roman emperor could be stored in her “bedchamber” (I.vi.196). She agrees And the first act of Cymbeline comes to a close.

In Act Two, we see more of Cloten’s loutishmess. Then when Imogen goes to bed, that chest from Iachimo opens and out pops Iachimo. He creeps about her room, talking of touching her, kissing her, writing down everything he sees. If he can’t seduce her, he will get as much detail about her room, so that he can describe it to Posthumus to convince him that the seduction worked. He takes the bracelet Posthumus gave Imogen, and takes note of a mole on her left breast. “This secret,” he says, “Will force him [to] think I have picked the lock and ta’en / The treasure of her honor” (II.ii.40-2). He then pops back into the trunk as daylight comes.

In the next scene, Cloten and his lords arrive beneath Imogen’s window for a serenade. Both king and queen offer wooing tips,before messengers from Rome arrive, and the king and queen exit. Cloten then speaks with the princess. When he tries to argue, she tells him that Posthumus’ “meanest garment / That ever hath but clipped his body is dearer / In my respect than all the hairs above thee” (II.iii.133-5), then realizing that she no longer has the bracelet Posthumus had given her.

Act Two, Scene Four takes us back to Rome, where Posthumus and Phlario discuss how it now appears that Rome and Britain are now on a collision-course to war, as Augustus wants past-due tribute from Cymbeline–and Posthumus believes that Britain would rather fight than submit. Into this political discourse, Iachimo returns, delivering to Posthumus letters from Imogen. Posthumus brags of his ring, thinking that Iachimo has failed; instead, Iachimo proclaims that “the ring is won” (II.iv.45), calling Imogen “so easy” (II.iv.47). He describes her bedchamber in general terms, then in greater detail. But then he shows Posthumus the bracelet. Iachimo then describes the mole under her breast. The fifth and final scene of the act is a soliloquy by Posthumus, railing against men, nature, Imogen, but more than anything women in general.

Act Three of Cymbeline begins with a state meeting between Cymbeline and his court and the representatives of the Roman emperor Augustus in Britain. Continue reading Cymbeline: Act Three – into the woods

Cymbeline: Act Two – a dufus, a creeper, and a dupe

previously…in Cymbeline:

Act One sets the scene: ancient Britain where king Cymbeline’s heir and daughter Imogen has enraged her father by marrying a “a poor but worthy gentleman” (I.i.7), Posthumus, who was raised in the castle; instead, he wanted her to marry the son of his new wife. The newly-wed couple is separated: by her in-castle imprisonment and his banishment. And the Queen’s son, Cloten, desires Imogen as well…so much so that he attempts to attack Posthumus on his way out of town. Meanwhile, we learn that Imogen was not Cymbeline’s only child. There were two older sons, both kidnapped as toddlers, some twenty years ago; no one knows where they are now. And if you don’t think that’s not going to come back later on, you obviously have heard of Chekhov’s gun. While the Queen promises that she will act as an “advocate” (I.i.76) for Imogen and Posthumus to the king, it turns out that she’s not the un-evil stepmother she claims to be, after all.

We’re taken to Rome, where Posthumus arrives, speaking lovingly of Imogen’s beauty and virtue. A local, Iachimo, says that Posthumus is unbelievable, and intimates that he can seduce Imogen. And a challenge is created: Iachimo will travel to Britain and will attempt to sleep with Imogen. If he succeeds, Posthumus will give up his ring (the one given to him by Imogen); if Iachimo fails, then he must pay Posthumus ten thousand ducats, plus agree to a duel that Posthumus demands.

Back in Britain, the Queen has had a doctor create a killing drug, a slow-moving “mover of a languishing death” (I.v.9). What she doesn’t know, however, is that the doctor has created not a poison, but a potion that “will stupefy and dull the sense awhile” (I.v.37), looking like death, but from which the taker will awake later. Add another gun to Chekhov’s arsenal. She attempts to hire Posthumus’ servant Pisanio, even giving him the potion, which she tells him is actually a cure, one that has “the king / Five times redeemed from death” (I.v.62-3). When she leaves, however, he reveals in aside that he doesn’t trust her, and will remain true to Posthumus.

In the final scene of Act One, Imogen bemoans her state when who should arrive but Iachimo. And we know what he’s there for. He intimates that Posthumus as been less than sad in Rome, where they’ve come to call him “the Briton Reveler” (I.vi.61). She questions Iachimo on his statement that Posthumus as talked about how a man could possibly be pent up with such desire. He tells Imogen that if she were his, he would never “break the oath of loyalty” (I.vi.102), intimating–but not stating–Posthumus’ fall. He says that not only has her husband forgot Britain but also himself; he didn’t want to tell her these things, but her “graces” (I.vi.113) moved him to speak. Iachimo suggests that she revenge herself on Posthumus, and when she asks how she should do this, Iachimo says she could use him, conveniently enough, as he is willing to “dedicate [him]self to [her] sweet pleasure” (I.vi.136).

She immediately calls Iachimo out on his deceit, saying that if he were honorable, he would have told her for virtue, not “for such an end [he] seek’st, as base as strange” (I.vi.144). Caught, he tells her that Posthumus is a lucky man, and that he had done this as a test of her loyalty…and she passed. He apologizes profusely, and she accepts him. As he is about to leave her, he stops, having “almost forgot” (I.vi.180) a request. He has brought a trunk that contains a gift for the Roman emperor, and he, concerned over its safety, is wondering if she wouldn’t mind storing it during his visit; she agrees, and since Posthumus helped purchase the gift, she will even keep it in her “bedchamber” (I.vi.196). He thanks her and says that he will have the trunk delivered to her; he also tells her that he is willing to take Posthumus her correspondence when he leaves for Rome the next day. And the first act of Cymbeline comes to a close.

Act Two of Cymbeline begins with another Cloten-and-the-two-Lords scene, in which Cloten complains over losing a bowling match, the first lord mollifies him, and the second lord cuts him down in asides for our amusement. Continue reading Cymbeline: Act Two – a dufus, a creeper, and a dupe

Cymbeline: Act One – a whole-lotta-plot goin’ on

Let’s kick off the plot synopsis of Act One of Cymbeline with a little scene-setting (you know: the setting). It’s ancient Britain. And the court of King Cymbeline. It is in this setting in which we get one those “quiet” beginnings, a dialog between characters bringing us up-to-speed (think Gloucester and Kent at the beginning of King Lear). Here, though, they are nameless (but numbered) characters…

Continue reading Cymbeline: Act One – a whole-lotta-plot goin’ on