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Shakespeare's Characters: Guiderius and Arviragus (Cymbeline)


From The Works of William Shakespeare. Vol. 18. Ed. Evangeline Maria O'Connor. J.D. Morris and Co. (1901), Public Domain

The two Princes, Guiderius and Arviragus, both educated in the wilds, form a noble contrast to Miranda and Perdita. Shakspeare is fond of showing the superiority of the natural over the artificial. Over the art which enriches nature, he somewhere says, there is a higher art created by nature herself. As Miranda's unconscious and unstudied sweetness is more pleasing than those charms which endeavour to captivate us by the brilliant embellishments of a refined cultivation, so in these two youths, to whom the chase has given vigour and hardihood, but who are ignorant of their high destination, and have been brought up apart from human society, we are equally enchanted by a naive heroism which leads them to anticipate and to dream of deeds of valour, till an occasion is offered which they are irresistibly compelled to embrace. When Imogen comes in disguise to their cave; when, with all the innocence of childhood, Guiderius and Arviragus form an impassioned friendship for the tender boy, in whom they neither suspect a female nor their own sister; when, on their return from the chase, they find her dead, then "sing her to the ground," and cover the grave with flowers : these scenes might give to the most deadened imagination a new life for poetry. If a tragical event is only apparent in such case, whether the spectators are already aware of it or ought merely to suspect it, Shakspeare always knows how to mitigate the impression without weakening it: he makes the mourning musical, that it may gain in solemnity what it loses in seriousness.
Schlegel: Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature.

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