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Act II, Scene 3
Cloten and his lords enter an antechamber adjoining Imogen's rooms. Cloten has decided to woo the princess with music and has arranged for musicians to play before her door while he serenades her with a song. He hopes that his efforts will pay off and that Imogen will accept him. Meanwhile, the King and Queen enter, and are pleased to see him thus engaged. The King asks Cloten to give her more time to forget Posthumus since "the exile of her minion is too new." The King is called away as a messenger has arrived from Rome with a message from the Emperor.
Waiting in vain for Imogen to appear, Cloten decides to bribe one of her ladies, for he feels that money will buy him admittance. While he is talking to one, Imogen appears. She is not pleased to see him, but is polite. Cloten, however, refuses to leave and keeps on declaring his love for her until Imogen becomes annoyed and at the end of her tether, she tells him that she hates him. Cloten now charges her with disobedience and speaks disparagingly of Posthumus as "One bred of alms and foster'd with cold dishes, / With scraps o'the court." Imogen is enraged and declares that Cloten is not even as worthy as a discarded garment of Posthumus. She ignores him as he sputters in anger and summons Pisanio to search for her lost bracelet. Cloten is slighted by her abuse and vows revenge.
This scene is introduced here mainly to depict the lapse of time, which is required for Iachimo's journey from Britain to Rome. After an all night session of gambling, Cloten appears before the door of Imogen's chamber as he has been "advised to give her music o'morning." He follows the advice because he is assured that "it will penetrate." His use of sexual innuendo reveals his sordid nature. He does not shine in wooing, though he rises into verse for the occasion. The perfect gem of a song that "very excellent, good- conceited thing," is wasted upon Imogen. However, his scheme proves ineffective so he resorts to what he knows best: bribing her ladies to gain entrance into her bedroom. Money, Cloten thinks, will buy anything yet the lady is not impressed and says she will provide neither information nor access.
The dialogue that later takes place between Cloten and Imogen reveals his sordid as well as uncouth nature even more. He refers to Posthumus as a wretch because he lacks money and noble status yet he is the one who reeks of turpitude despite his noble heritage. Here he is turned round and round until all the foulness under his folly can be seen. Imogen is not afraid to put him in his place and she defends her husband resolutely and sharply lashes out at Cloten, though later she expresses regret for forgetting "a lady's manners." She plainly tells him that his behavior is responsible for it. Finally, she is compelled to tell him, "I care not for you!" and tells him that he is not worth even a discarded garment of Posthumus.' This last comment bothers Cloten and he is nonplussed as he can only mutter "his meanest garment" several times, shocked by her vehemence. In modern times, this comment could be taken to mean her lover's dirty underwear is worth more to her than Cloten is.
In the former scene with Iachimo, Imogen is attacked by the outside forces of an Italian lover, though she is impervious to what has occurred. Here there is a brutal attempt by Cloten to gain access to her sexually and economically. He is really after the fortune and title, which would come with marrying Imogen, rather than herself. Imogen braces herself against her attack although she is weakened by it, revealing a side of herself that is not becoming of her. She is on the defensive. Both of these men can be representative of the internal and external forces that attempt to destroy the social order.