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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Act V, Scene 1

In the Roman camp, Posthumus enters with a handkerchief soaked in blood. From his soliloquy, the reader gathers that after Pisanio's report of Imogen's death, Posthumus has been stricken by remorse and wishes that he had not been so hasty in seeking vengeance. He wonders how the gods take away people who have sinned but once, and mildly at that, while allowing sinners who go on sinning to live, feeling remorseful. He wishes he had let Imogen live so that she could repent, and also to give another her another chance at happiness.

Posthumus has come with the Roman army, recruited by Lucius from among the gentry. However, he now feels that he cannot take up arms against Imogen's people, and plans to disguise himself as a British peasant and fight on the British side.


Notes

This scene serves as a connecting link between the Posthumus' plan to kill Imogen and his new ability to forgive her for what she has supposedly done. Shakespeare uses the background of war between Roman and Britain to underscore the terrible effect that violence and irrational thinking have on human relations. Posthumus has undergone a great change since he last came on stage, denigrating all women. He is now repentant and full of self- loathing. This he has acquired during a period of isolation and quiet, heart-searching meditation. Posthumus blames Pisanio for the death of Imogen, noting that servants should not follow all commands but just those they think are just. Ironically, Pisanio has done just that but Posthumus will be ignorant of his correct action for some time. That Posthumus has forgiven Imogen is a big step and will eventually lead to the re-establishment of his relationship to her as well as to Britain as can be seen in the disrobing of his Italian clothes for peasant garb and commitment to fight for the British army.

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