Some thoughts and unanswered questions on Cymbeline

Here are some thoughts, questions, and ideas that I didn’t really get around to addressing in our time here with Cymbeline:

  • What the heck was up with Cloten’s obsession over Innogen’s use of the phrase “his meanest garment” (meaning Posthumus’ worst bit of clothing is dearer to her than Cloten, even if there were as many Clotens as Cloten has hairs on his head)? I get the insult, but why is Cloten so fixated on it? I mean, she insults him many different ways, so why obsess over this one?
  • While we’re on the subject of Cloten, what about the weird distraction for him in Act Three, Scene Five, after he has ordered Pisanio to go get some of Posthumus’ clothing: “Meet thee at Milford Haven! I forgot to ask him one thing; I’ll remember it anon. Even there…” (III.v.129-30). The “Meet thee” is a reference to the letter Posthumus wrote to Innogen; clear as day. But why does Shakespeare give us “I forgot to ask him one thing; I’ll remember it anon”…only to never remember it. I suppose it could be the question upon Pisanio’s return, “How long is’t since she went to Milford Haven?” (III.v.147), but it’s not prefaced with something along the lines of “oh, yeah, I forgot to ask you before…” Is it just to show what an idiot Cloten is? Is this part of what Bloom calls Cymbeline‘s self-parody?
  • Arviragus says of Fidele, “How angel-like he sings!” (IV.ii.48). When do we–and, more importantly, the brothers–hear Innogen sing? We get two songs in the play (Cloten’s to Innogen, and the brothers’ funereal piece; I suppose the visitation by Posthumus’ dead family could be sung, to make it three), so there’s no inclination to avoid showing us songs in this play on Shakespeare’s part. So why bring it up but not set it up?
  • Regarding that funereal song: It it supposed to sound like bad poetry? Is it supposed to sound like the witches in Macbeth? Don’t laugh…for the most part, the boys’ dirge uses the same trochaic tetrameter… especially if we do consider the spirit visitation sung…as it’s iambic tetrameter…
  • Oh, and one last one: Why is this play titled Cymbeline? Why not Innogen or Posthumus (if you see him as the protagonist)? Or why not Posthumus and Innogen for that matter? Is it a matter of Shakespeare knowing that the name Cymbeline was more recognizable? You know, like when movie studios title a film to reference a known entity, only to ignore that source material–yeah, I’m looking at you, Tim Burton, and your monstrosity Planet of the Apes. As neither Posthumus nor Innogen is in the story of the historical Cymbeline, it wouldn’t have had the same box-office value as the king’s name, I suppose. But it just seems weak…

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