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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Cymbeline

Cymbeline is so completely swayed by his Queen that he is king only in name. She is fully conscious of this fact and declares that he "pays dear for my offence." The King simply echoes what the Queen says. He is so sure of her wisdom that he mildly rebukes Cloten for interrupting her discourse with the Roman ambassador. His love for Imogen is immense, but he fails to actuate himself to fulfil his duty towards her. Only in the absence of the Queen and when Imogen leaves the palace does he admit that she is his comfort. His judgment is so poor that he fails to estimate Cloten's true nature.

Because Cymbeline can be cajoled and flattered into doing anything, he allows the royal family to become rife with chaos and discordance. A superior sense of justice and self-knowledge are the qualities which, owing to his supreme egotism, he fails to cultivate. Yet by the end of the play, despite his lack of action and participation in events, everything falls into place and Cymbeline gives thanks to the benevolent universe by forgiving all his enemies and granting amnesty to the Roman prisoners of war. This shows a magnanimous side to him that was subjugated by the will of the Queen.


The Queen

The Queen is "a mere joint in the machine" and fails to come to life as a character. Appropriately so she is without a name other than "the Queen." She is a fair woman, at least in the eyes of the King. "Mine eyes", he declares, "were not in fault, for she was beautiful," but her appearance is deceptive as she is also an ambitious woman, wily and crafty. Everyone but the King sees here for what she really is. She has more than average energy and tact to "bear all down with her brain." But she seems to be heedless in relentlessly pursuing her objective to have complete control of the kingdom. Even Imogen is not able to fathom the depth of her wickedness although she knows that her ingratiating manner hides a darker side. Imogen recognizes her as a woman of "dissembling courtesy" and a "tyrant who can tickle where she wounds".

Pisanio knows her well, but not so well as her doctor does. He alone is perhaps more intimate with her and knows her potentialities as a wicked woman who can commit murder in cold blood. It is her love for power that mainly actuates her to secure the succession to the throne in favor of her son. She is well aware that when the fool reigns, it is she who will be ruling.

Her doctor, who at the end reports her death, summarizes the history of her existence in a single sentence. When Cymbeline asks, "How ended she?" the doctor answers, "With horror, madly dying, like her life".

Cloten

Cloten is not exactly a comic character, although this buffoon-like person must at times provoke laughter on the stage. Granville- Barker points out that he "stands in the character-scheme contrasted with Iachimo. They are both scoundrels. Each is the other's complement in lechery with Imogen. He is, as the courtier rightly informs, "a thing too bad for bad report." He is a bully and a coward, with little sense and still less sensibility. Coached by his mother, and thanks to his tailor, he cuts some sort of a figure at the court although his attempts to woo Imogen fall short of the mark. He is crass and and assails her with 'music' in the morning that reeks of sexual innuendo. Though he admits that Imogen to be a paragon of a woman, he loves her because he will "have gold enough" by marrying her. He sees her only in terms of economic worth.

Cloten tries to speak like a statesman but he bungles everything he does. He offends where he should be gracious such as the scene when Lucius visits the court. It is no wonder that he ends up beheaded by Guiderius as he cannot help being antagonistic and uncouth. Therefore, his behavior eventually results in his death. Cloten's whole being seems a mass of unhinged disorder and jumble. There are several parts in him which are at incurable odds one with another. Each has a will and a way of its own, so that no two of "them can pull together." He is, as Imogen describes him, a "harsh, noble, simple nothing." Imogen, in her goodness, attributes nobleness to him. However, the audience would undoubtedly deny it to him, because it knows too well his meanness and wickedness. He is a threat to the royal palace and order of the kingdom. With a man like Cloten ruling Britain, the country would be in constant disarray.

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