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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Notes

This scene takes place during the long hours of night and falls into three well-defined parts. Posthumus, being mistaken for a Roman warrior, has been imprisoned and seeks death much to the surprise of the jailers. The second part consists of a dream in which his dead parents and two dead brothers appear in a vision and pray to Jupiter for justice tempered with mercy for their dearly loved relatives. Jupiter appears and gives them assurance that all will be well. He leaves a tablet on Posthumus's body that declares in enigmatic language, peace and prosperity to Posthumus and Britain. The last part consists of the talk between him and the guard who re-appears at daybreak to summon him for the trial. The vision, which Posthumus experiences, has little dramatic significance but provides a spectacular show.

This scene is notable for the depiction of Posthumus's grief and remorse. As he thinks of Imogen, he reflects on the three stages of repentance prescribed by the Church: firstly sorrow, secondly penance, and thirdly, satisfaction. Heaven will pardon him for the wrongs he has committed, but his own conscience requires that he shall give his life in exchange for Imogen's, although his is not as valuable. Here Posthumus acknowledges Imogen's worth despite her still being guilty of infidelity in his mind. His dream state leads to an inclusion of what is called a "masque," which was a stylized form of entertainment popular in Elizabethan England. In Cymbeline, Shakespeare uses the conventions of the masque, with chivalrous youths issuing from caves, ghosts and apparitions descending on the stage, and gods on eagles issuing prophetic words to relay the importance of Posthumus' forgiveness of Imogen. It is through this selfless act that order is restored to the royal family. The language of Posthumus' family are distinctive from the rest of the play by its rhymed verse and different meter which also adds an unworldly feel to the scene.


Posthumus' family appeals to Jupiter on Posthumus' behalf, reciting the trials and suffering he has undergone. Jupiter's response is benevolent and understanding; Posthumus has suffered much and will be rewarded, perhaps because his suffering has made him appreciate what he has even more.

On awaking, Posthumus discovers the booklet that prophesies his future and the restoration of England, yet he remains ignorant of it and dismisses it as nonsense as he prepares himself for death. In figurative language, the messages describes Posthumus as a "lion's whelp" reuniting with "a piece of tender air" meaning Imogen who will be like air, not really solid, until she discloses her true identity, and goes on to foretell the reunion of the "stately cedar" meaning Cymbeline with his two sons who are the "lopped branches." With these two reunions, Britain will "be fortunate and flourish in peace and plenty."

The following scene provides some dark humor between the gaolers and Posthumus as they discuss his impending death, using images of food such as "Over-roasted" and "well-done" to convey the idea that Posthumus' goose is cooked and he has literally come to the end of his rope as well as images of value and money. In exchange for death, one of the gaolers comments comes freedom from debt and mindless pursuits such as drinking in a tavern which leaves "purse and brain both empty." The scene ends with the gaolers' amazement at Posthumus' determination to die. Here his bravery is shown to be not only on the battlefield but while facing death and the gaolers are impressed.

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