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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Act III, Scene 4

Pisanio and Imogen are nearing the coastal town of Milford-Haven on the coast of Pembrokeshire in South Wales. They have been traveling for a considerable time and Imogen asks Pisanio how much longer it will take to reach their destination. She notices that Pisanio looks troubled and unhappy, and insists on knowing the reason why he looks so despondent. Pisanio, unable to reply, hands over the letter written to him by Posthumus. Imogen reads, and to her horror, finds herself accused of being a strumpet, along with her husband's instructions to Pisanio to kill her on the way to Milford-Haven.

As Pisanio observes, there is no need to draw his sword, for "the paper / Hath cut her throat already." She cannot believe that her beloved lord has called her "false" and a "strumpet." Instinctively, she feels that Iachimo, with his villainous looks and bearing has something to do with the matter although she is not sure. But she also feels that Posthumus, infatuated with some Italian woman of easy virtue, must have grown weary of her and therefore wished to get her out of the way. Bitter and betrayed, she talks of Posthumus as a false Sinon (i.e. the wily Greek who through his false weeping prevailed upon the Trojans to receive the wooden horse, the instrument of their destruction), pretending to be true and honest while he falls to the depths of depravity.

Unable to bear it any longer, she asks Pisanio to fulfill his master's wishes and kill her; but the faithful retainer is unable to do so. He finally succeeds in calming her down and puts forward a plan that he has. Since Imogen has left her father's court and her absence must have been discovered by now, she cannot return there and face persecution from Cloten and the Queen. Posthumus only required some proof of the deed, so Pisanio suggests that he could send a bloodied cloth as sufficient proof. Imogen could then dress in men's clothes and try to take up service with the Roman general Lucius who is known to be a fair man. Once in Rome, she could try to find a place near Posthumus's lodgings, so that she could see for herself if her lord had been led astray. Pisanio is convinced that Posthumus has been tricked by someone into believing that his wife was false, and he begs Imogen to agree to this plan in order to work things out. He promises to send money as and when she needs it. He then hands over the set of men's clothes he has brought along, and with a blessing, he prepares to return to the court before he is missed. In parting, he gives her the box that the Queen had given him that contains medicines to revive and restore.


Notes

Life at court, with the boorish Cloten and his wicked mother had become quite unbearable for Imogen. It is therefore with a sense of relief and joy that she responds to her husband's letter, asking her to meet him at Milford-Haven in South Wales. However, her sense of betrayal and loss when being informed of Posthumus' letter is profound; for a while she is unable to even listen to Pisanio's plans. She can only think of the word "false," and Posthumus' accusation. She feels sure that maybe he has been swayed by the lust of an Italian woman and that Iachimo is in some way connected with the matter. She also states that men are the cause of much of women's pain. At first she pronounces that Pisanio must go through with Posthumus' wishes and kill her. This act of courage is fortified by her moral courage that refuses to yield to suicide as an option. Yet, unlike Posthumus, she does not rage and rant, vowing vengeance "like a woman scorn'd," but instead she listens to Pisanio's suggestions, and like many Shakespearean heroines before her, to don men's clothes to seek a solution to the problem she faces. Thus, she dresses up as a man and makes her way to Milford- Haven, seeking to find employment with Caius Lucius, the Roman general. She is also not ready to disavow her love for Posthumus just yet and finds reasonable doubt that he may be mistaken and all may turn out for the best.

Like a detective, Imogen goes underground to discover the mystery of her husband's wrath. In disguising herself as a man, she is donning a more masculine position of power that will allow her access to a world that normally shuts her out as a woman.

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