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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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TRIUMPH OF GOODNESS OVER EVIL IN CYMBELINE

The evil presented in Cymbeline is not absolute. Shakespeare's treatment of it suggests a scale of graded evil. That it exists to a certain extent in everyone whether intentional or not is explored in Cymbeline. The destruction that occurs in the play is due more to a lack of judgment in the character than malevolence. To start with, there is the blind evil which refers to the wrong done by one who acts innocently and then there is a perverted evil that refers to a misguided sense of right and wrong. Following suite is evil in the form of villainy. Here again one has to differentiate between crafty villainy and villainy born of stupidity.

Cymbeline himself illustrates blind evil in respect to Belarius and Posthumus. The upshot of Cymbeline's blind accusations is that he is robbed of his two sons and then of his daughter. The story of Belarius is a simple one of evil arising out of retaliation. The evil of Posthumus is the most common of moral perversions. It is a result of the false sense of honor that dares not ignore a challenge. His zeal to demonstrate his wife's purity to the world blinds Posthumus to the crime he is committing. Iachimo's evil is similar as he makes his wager against Posthumus's confidence rather than against Imogen's reputation. Besides blind evil and perverted evil the play presents examples of unadulterated evil that has two types: the craftiness of the Queen and the stupidity of Cloten.


All these six types of evil are drawn into a unity by the way in which they strike at Imogen: through Cymbeline's error she loses her husband; through the retaliation of Belarius she loses her two brothers; Posthumus's sin robs her of her love; the crime of Iachimo robs her of her reputation; her life is threatened by the Queen and the villainy of Cloten threatens her honor.

Corresponding to the six-fold evil in the play, six forces of restoration are also at work: suffering innocence in the form of Imogen, suffering fidelity in the form of Pisanio, suffering guilt in the form of Posthumus and Iachimo, honest intrigue in the form of Cornelius, and the overruling providence which works through the Oracle. Through these forces of restoration Imogen's honor and life are saved. Her reputation is cleared. Her love is restored. Her brothers and husband are recovered. In this way Cymbeline presents the triumph of goodness over evil.

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