David Grimaud's Reviews > Cymbeline

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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Jul 30, 11

bookshelves: shakespeare
Read in January, 2009

Cymbeline, a fictional king of ancient history, was written in 1609, one of the last six plays by Shakespeare. Cymbeline himself is not a central character, and it is his remarkable daughter Imogen that dominates the play.

The Bard borrowed plot devices from earlier plays: the "poison is sleeping potion" taken by Imogen (from Romeo & Juliet); Imogen disguised as a male (12th Night, As You Like It, Merchant of Venice, etc.). The visitation of spirits during Posthumus's sleep is seen in The Tempest (written a year after Cymbeline). There are also similarities of other plays: the resemblance of Imogen to Desdemona in Othello; the relationship between Imogen and Cymbeline that of Cordelia and Lear in King Lear; the banishment of Belarius (a former loyal subject of Cymbeline) to Prosparo in The Tempest.

The play is not Shakespeare's finest — Scene IV whereupon Posthumus Leonatus is visited by Jupiter was hard to swallow and adds little if anything to the play, and some argue this to be his worst scene of all his plays. Nevertheless, the seasoned Shakespeare delivers some great lines like "The game is up…" (Act III, Scene III), and "I have not slept one wink…” (Act III, Scene III). He skillfully reconciles the characters and subplots in the final scene, providing memorable performances by both Imogen and the apologetic Iachamo.
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