What the hell? I didn’t really like this play.
I mean, it’s such a hodgepodge. The cuckoldry plot, which began as a comic trope, darkened by Much Ado, the went pitch black (no pun intended) in Othello, here splits the difference between the two genres. Posthumus orders the killing of Innogen, and thinks it’s accomplished, only it isn’t and by the end they are reunited. Tragi-comedy. I know I’ve decided to use the term “romance” instead, but damned if in this respect, Cymbeline fits the former moniker. You get what is–for me–pages upon pages of exposition, all to set up a play where plot goes quickly, almost too quickly. There’s the 55-car pile-up of revelations and resolutions in that last scene. The weird Iachimo-in-the-Box scene. The decapitation of Cloten. And thanks, Jupiter.
I lean toward agreeing with Bloom (a shocker, I know) on this one: maybe this is self-parody.
But can you successfully play it that way?
I’m not sure if that’s the way the RSC played it in that cinema broadcast last year. I remember finding it funny, but I can’t remember if the comedy was organic or pushed over the edge.
And yet, there was stuff in this that I liked: the knowing comedy at moments in that last scene. Cloten’s obsession. So, in the end, I just don’t know how I feel about this play.
It fascinates me more than Pericles. I think it’s probably a “better” play; it certainly doesn’t have the flaws of that earlier play. But I didn’t enjoy Cymbeline as much as I did Pericles…or at least as much as I’ve enjoyed that play on stage. Cymbeline has its moments, but I just don’t know.
If I had to rank it (and I do), I’d put it behind Pericles, as number two in the romances…but a bit further back for the Canon…about two-thirds down the list, and #21, just Richard II.
So thanks, Jupiter, and goodbye, Cymbeline.
Next up, we get another self-deluded non-cuckold and a sad tale that’s best for winter…just as we’re heading into summer. May we escape the bear…