CYMBELINE QUESTIONS FOR E316 SHAKESPEARE, CSU FULLERTON FALL 2011
CYMBELINE, KING OF BRITAIN, BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Assigned: Cymbeline, King of Britain. (Norton Romances 273-364)
1. In Act 1, Scene 1, we are introduced to Cymbeline and Imogen. How does their discord (its causes and the manner of their interaction) compare to that of Lear and Cordelia in King Lear? Moreover, what other similarities and/or differences can you find between the current playÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opening scene and the beginning of King Lear?
2. In Act 1, Scenes 1-2, CymbelineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Queen converses with Imogen, and we meet the QueenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s son Cloten. In what regard are these two held, and why? What difference between the mother and the son begins to appear even at this early point? But in what sense do they resemble each other as well?
3. In Act 1, Scene 4, how does PosthumusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“ring wagerÃ¢â‚¬Â come about? What are the terms of the wager between Jachimo and Posthumus? While such a bet no doubt seems unfair and even absurd to modern sensibilities, on what grounds might a medieval or early modern man have defended it?
4. In Act 1, Scene 5, how does the try to advance her plot against ImogenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s match with Posthumus? What does she ask of the doctor, Cornelius, and how does he respond in word and deed? What is the QueenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s use for Pisanio at this point?
5. In Act 1, Scene 6, how does Iachimo attempt to traduce Imogen? What virtues does she demonstrate in responding as she does? Based on all you have seen of Imogen thus far in Act 1, what seems to be the guiding principle by which she speaks and acts?
6. In Act 2, Scenes 1 and 3, what anxieties and ambitions does Cloten manifest in his conversations with the Lords, with Cymbeline and the Queen, and finally with Imogen? How does he understand his own situation at Court and with regard to Imogen, whose affections he covets?
7. In Act 2, Scene 2, what details does Jachimo gather in order to convince Posthumus that Imogen has been unfaithful? What significance do JachimoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s classical allusions (to Tarquin, Tereus and Philomela) add to this wicked scene?
8. In Act 2, Scene 4, Jachimo lays out his Ã¢â‚¬Å“evidenceÃ¢â‚¬Â against ImogenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chastity. What makes the pitch effective as a piece of rhetoric? What weakness in Posthumus does Jachimo shape his unveiling of the evidence to exploit? What general view of women does Posthumus proclaim by the fifth scene?
9. In Act 3, Scene 1, what different attitudes do Cymbeline, the Queen, and Cloten take up towards Augustus CaesarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s demand that the Britons pay tribute? What relationship obtains between Cymbeline and the Roman ambassador Lucius, and what seems to be the underlying reason for this relationship? If you are presenting on this question, please add some very brief background on relations between the Romans and the Britons around the time frame Shakespeare references (one helpful page is Brittania.comÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ).
10. In Act 3, Scenes 2 and 4, how does Imogen react first to the news that Posthumus is in Wales (Cambria) at Milford-Haven and then to the knowledge that he believes she has been false to him? What is PisanioÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan to redeem the situation, or at least to avoid the worst that might happen? How does the Imogen react to this plan?
11. In Act 3, Scene 3, we meet Belarius and the two young men he has raised, Guiderius and his younger brother Arviragus. What is BelariusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ storyÃ¢â‚¬â€why was he banished? What sort of life do he and the two young men lead, and in what setting? In what ways do their perspectives on this situation differ? How does this new Ã¢â‚¬Å“Belarius subplotÃ¢â‚¬Â relate to the main one?
12. In Act 3, Scene 5, how does Cymbeline react to the news that his daughter Imogen has fled the court? What more do we learn about the Queen and ClotenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s respective plans in this scene? In particular, what is ClotenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rationale for the attempt he plans to make against Imogen?
13. In Act 3, Scene 6, how do Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus receive Imogen, disguised as Ã¢â‚¬Å“FideleÃ¢â‚¬Â? How does this reception deepen the contrast already established between the existence these three men lead and the life others lead at the court of Cymbeline?
14. In Act 4, Scenes 2 and 4, how do Arviragus and Guiderius show their Ã¢â‚¬Å“qualityÃ¢â‚¬Â as young men of aristocratic birth? What does Belarius apparently think of this manifestation of nobility, and what concerns him about the bold deed of Guiderius? To what extent does the play as a whole (up to this section) validate the idea that noble birth should be taken as a promise of innate goodness?
15. In Act 4, Scene 2, what happens to Imogen as Ã¢â‚¬Å“FideleÃ¢â‚¬Â when she drinks the potion that Pisanio gave her some time ago? When she awakens to find a headless body next to her, what confusions set in that the rest of the playÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unfolding will have to resolve?
16. In Act 5, Scenes 1-3, what role do Belarius, Arviragus and Guiderius play in saving Cymbeline and Britain from defeat by the Romans? What motivates Posthumus to join with these three against the Roman army?
17. In Act 5, Scene 5, PosthumusÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ departed parents and brothers appear to him in a dream. What is the substance and import of his dream? How do the shades who appear to Posthumus in his sleep address Jupiter, and how does the God respond to their address? What does Posthumus learn, if anything, from the dream?
18. In Act 5, Scene 6, by what means is the identity of Imogen and Posthumus finally revealed to Cymbeline and the others at court? What specific device does Shakespeare employ to accomplish this revelation?
19. In Act 5, Scene 6, what further difficulty does this discovery lead to with respect to Belarius and Guiderius, and how is the new problem resolved? What about the fate of Lucius the virtuous Roman, and the devious JachimoÃ¢â‚¬â€what happens to them?
20. Act 5, Scene 6 concludes with CymbelineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commands, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Laud we the gods, / And let our crooked smokes climb to their nostrils / From our blest altars / . . . . Let / A Roman and a British ensign wave / Friendly togetherÃ¢â‚¬Â (477-81). Contrast the ending of King Lear with the concluding scene of Cymbeline: what makes it possible for the latter play (a romance) to end with forgiveness, concord, and security while the tragedy Lear ends in crushed hopes and death? What assumptions are operative in Cymbeline that are not viable in Lear?
Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen et al., eds. The Norton Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Four-Volume Genre Paperback Set. Norton, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93152-5.