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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Notes

In this act, the play comes to an end with the cycle of prosperity, destruction, and renewed prosperity completed. Cymbeline has been responsible for destroying the original prosperity by trusting the vicious and punishing the good, mainly on the advice of his wicked Queen. However, the destruction and sorrow that are brought about are ended and overcome by the spirit of renewal and reconciliation, mainly through the young people, the children of Cymbeline. Through the recognition of long-lost children and a renewed appreciation for what one has, a happy ending is achieved. Bitter animosity between nations and family is healed through the action of a younger generation that brings hope for the future.

The theme of reconciliation is a basic element of the last plays of Shakespeare. These plays depict the healing of old quarrels and old wounds, and the hope of a better future through the younger generation. The theme of universal harmony is never more evident than here. Cymbeline makes peace with everyone, his surviving family and his enemies, and generously declares "Pardon's the word to all," even as he does not omit to pay tribute to the gods who have brought about this reconciliation. The atmosphere of penitence and pardon touches all, even the wicked Iachimo, who is as repugnant in his contrition as he is outrageous in his wickedness.


The world imagined in Cymbeline is not new: Rome and Milford- Haven have a peculiarly familiar ring, but the atmosphere, especially in the Welsh mountains, is transfigured and the scene is lit with a new light. Thus, the audience is presented with a number of incredible and simultaneous resolutions from the recognition of Imogen as being alive to the news that Guiderius and Arviragus are Cymbeline's long lost sons to Cloten's appropriate death by the hands of one who is deigned to inherit the crown by royal birth.

The denouement towards which all action slowly moves toward from the beginning of the fourth act now gathers full momentum as all the various threads of the plot are carefully woven together by a huge ensemble on stage that even has the doctor Cornelius divulging his contribution to some of the confusion that has occurred over the course of the play. The masterly management of the action in this scene has been praised by many critics. The last scene in Cymbeline is among the most notable pieces of dramatic construction. The more one studies it the more one is astonished at the ingenuity with which denouement follows denouement. In this scene, Shakespeare has crowded some two dozen situations, any one of which would probably have been strong enough to carry a whole act. The forthrightness of the characters from Iachimo's confession to the King's recognition of the hurt and destruction his blindness has brought upon his kingdom reveals a goodness of character in each and every person despite their foibles and the malevolent forces as seen in the likes of the Queen and Cloten have been quelled. There are in all eighteen revelations in this single scene and each of them is so well arranged as to lead to the next one with smooth and comfortable movement.

As each of the denouements come to light so does the consolidation of the ruling family. Not only is the royal reunited but Cymbeline's gratefulness at the circumstances that have reunited his family spills over into his political dealings. In his agreement to a tribute to Rome, Cymbeline is making a symbolic gesture for harmony not only within his family but within the larger world order. The interpretation of the prophesy by the soothsayer makes valid all that has occurred and rejuvenates the belief in a harmonious and well-meaning universe.

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