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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Posthumus

Though he is the hero, Posthumus gets very little exposure in the action of the play to reveal himself completely. He is not only passive, but an expert in self-effacement. After the banishment, he has no plan to regain Cymbeline's favor. He does what he is told and accepts his Fate stoically. The courtier in the very first scene informs the audience that Posthumus is "so fair an outward, and such stuff within, endows a man but he." He is the posthumus son of a valiant British knight, who "served with glory and admired success" from Cymbeline. After the knight died, the King took Posthumus under his care and made him the knight of his bedchamber. In the palace, he lives as the companion of the princess, acquiring with ease all "the learnings of his time." He lives in the court "most praised, most loved." Although of humble birth, he has acquired the trappings of the nobility.

The very fact that Imogen selects Posthumus speaks volumes about him. It is not owing to a blind infatuation but with fine judgment that she selects Posthumus. She knows that he is a man "worthy of any woman." The irresponsible behavior of Posthumus in laying the wager and his willingness to believe the circumstantial evidence about Imogen's infidelity are serious flaws which reveal he is less the man than Imogen thinks he is, but his subsequent heartrending remorse more than compensates for his follies. Posthumus must undergo suffering and learn to love unconditionally before he and Imogen are reunited.

It is through his rejection of Imogen and subsequent remorse over his actions that lead to his suffering and eventual acceptance and love for Imogen regardless of what she has done.

Posthumus seems to be generous to a fault. When Cloten attacks him, he magnanimously avoids a serious encounter with him. He contemptuously turns his back upon the oaf, and calmly leaves him to entertain the courtiers with lies of having defeated Posthumus. Also with noble charity he pardons Iachimo. Despite his fits of folly, he deserves to be described as a "Lion's Whelp," a jewel among men, for whom Jupiter himself descends down from his celestial throne. He must work for this epithet and therefore Posthumus is a more human character than Imogen as he has flaws and must undergo a process of re-seeing his wife as the good woman that she really is.


Iachimo

Many critics look upon Iachimo as a minor villain because of his unscrupulous behavior. He is wicked for the pure pleasure of being so, and his vanity is so great that he refuses to acknowledge the superiority of anyone. He derides Posthumus when he is introduced to him and quickly perceives that Imogen is Posthumus' weak spot. He also detects that Posthumus is lacking faith in his wife although he claims to love her and thinks he believes she is faithful. Therefore, Iachimo is an astute observer of humans. He is quick-witted and dexterous on and off the battlefield.

In the wager-scene he quickly grasps the weakness of Posthumus and forces the terms of the wager upon him. So also, later in his encounter with Imogen, he judges the situation and changes the mode of his attack to suit the occasion. He has a keen eye for a person's weaknesses. That is why he manages to regain the esteem of Imogen by praising Posthumus. He assures her that his first proposal was only meant to test her confidence in her husband. Later when he returns to Rome, he flashes the bracelet before Posthumus's unbelieving eyes. When he hears from him that it was his gift to Imogen, he quickly improvises the story of her admitting that she prized it once.

Throughout the first four scenes, he appears to be an extremely unscrupulous villain. His only saving grace is that he is not altogether incapable of being touched by supreme moral beauty. As soon as he sees Imogen, he perceives her superior personality. He is equally sensible to her noble charm in the bedchamber scene. It is this germinal goodness which, in the course of time, develops into a powerful agent that brings about his regeneration. The deceit with which he had damaged the reputation and happiness of Imogen, eventually haunts his mind and results in his confession. Unlike Cloten who lacks any conscience, Iachimo realizes how injurious his deed was and thereby repents for it.

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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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