Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Act II, Scene 1
Cloten enters with his two lords, complaining about losing money in gambling. He has been embroiled in a fight with someone and feels that he is entitled to swear and quarrel with his inferiors, by rank of his position. As in the earlier scene, the First Lord is obsequious while the Second Lord, in a series of asides, reveals what they both really feel. The First Lord informs Cloten that an Italian, presumed to be a friend of Posthumus, had arrived at court. Cloten, who wishes to woo Imogen himself, is annoyed that the exiled Posthumus has sent a messenger, and decides to meet the Italian. It is obvious that Cloten is looking for a brawl, and he leaves with the First Lord. The Second Lord, in a soliloquy, wonders that such a crafty, cunning woman as the Queen should have such an ignorant ass for a son. He pities the hapless Imogen who suffers between a father who is controlled by his wife, a hateful suitor, and a stepmother, conniving and conspiring to kill her. He prays that the princess is able to keep her mind and honor intact under the pressure, and not agree to the divorce that the King is planning.
This scene provides time for Imogen to undress and get into her bed and gives another view of Cloten as a repugnant and vile creature that likes to curse and gamble. His nature is in startling contrast to Imogen's and even to Iachimo, who despite being a schemer has a somewhat poetic nature as can be seen in his description of Imogen in the previous scene.
The dialogue between Cloten and the First Lord is important. It reveals some details of Cloten's life: his gambling, his late hours, his position in the court and his high-handed behavior with courtiers. The asides of the Second Lord serve as a running commentary upon the dialogue. The Second Lord's last soliloquy, however, is dramatically significant as it reveals the terrible position of Imogen and the cunning of the Queen and her dim- witted son. It becomes obvious that with all her cunning, the Queen is able to deceive none else but the King. The Second Lord describes her as "a crafty devil" who "Bears all down with her brain." It is only on account of her influence over the king that she is able to carry on her machinations.
No one, not even her own doctor, has any illusions about her being virtuous. Perhaps owing to her influence over the king she is not particularly careful in covering up her selfish and malicious designs.
A connection is being made between the forces that are attempting to separate Imogen and Posthumus and those that are causing social unrest within Britain's royal family. So as Imogen is being attacked by Iachimo, an outside force, and the Queen and her son, the internal forces, so is England's social order vulnerable due to the machinations of the Queen and an impotent King.