Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 2
From Cymbeline. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press.
8. citizen, city-bred, effeminate.
10, 11. "Keep your daily course uninterrupted: if the stated plan of life is once broken, nothing follows but confusion -- Johnson.
22. Love's reason; the reason which love gives is no reason at all.
33. courtiers ...court. Cf. As You Like It, III. 2. 41, 42. The underlying idea is that courtesy belongs to the court. Cf. Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, III. 67, "His courtesy gentle, smelling
of the court," and George Herbert, The Church-Porch, "Courtesie grows in court." The austere Milton would have none of this notion; cf. Comus, 321-326.
"Shepherd, I take thy word,
And trust thy honest-offer'd courtesy,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds,
With smoky rafters, than in tapestry halls
And courts of princes, where it first was named,
And yet is most pretended";
the speaker being "the Lady," who is sometimes the obvious mouth-piece of the poet's own sentiments.
35. imperious; interchangeable with imperial until far into the 17th century. Cf. "imperious Ccesar" (Quarto) in Hamlet, V. 1. 236 (Folio imperial).
38. thy drug. "The plot of the play hinges upon the operation on Imogen of this narcotic, the supposed powers of which appear to have been exactly the same as that given by Friar Laurence to Juliet for the purpose of simulating death. Modern medicine is acquainted with no drug having the property to produce for a while the show of
death, and yet leave the powers of life so unharmed that the subject of them shall be more 'fresh, reviving'" -- Dr Bucknill. (F.) Is the idea Italian or oriental?
38. not stir him; "not move him to tell his story" -- Johnson.
39. gentle, of gentle birth. Lines 38-42 are spoken aside.
40. honest; he does not know her meaning here.
50. as, as if.
51-53. A little like Viola's "smiling at grief," Twelfth Night,
II. 4. 1 18 (in the picture of "patience on a monument"; cf. "patience" in the next speech). So also in Pericles, V. 1. 138- 140:
"yet thou dost look
Like Patience gazing on kings' graves, and smiling
Extremity out of act."
58. spurs, the lateral roots of a tree; cf. The Tempest, V. 1. 47.
59. untwine, i.e. cease to twine. Shakespeare uses elder disparagingly as a wood of soft useless texture -- e.g. "heart of elder" = weak, faint heart (The Merry Wives of Windsor, II. 3. 30),
exactly the reverse of "heart of oak." The legend that Judas hanged himself on an elder tree (Love's Labour's Lost, V. 2. 610) gave the tree gloomy associations fit for the scene of crime (Titus Audronicus, II. 3.
60. perishing; perhaps = 'destructive.'
61. great morning; F. grand jour.
69. companies, i.e. of soldiers.
71. mountaineers; an opprobrious term then, implying 'savage and barbarous.' Cf. Comus, 426, "No savage, fierce, bandit-mountaineer." People's feelings have changed with regard to mountains.
80. Being dressed in the garments of Posthumus (III. 5, end),
Cloten thinks that he should be recognised as a courtier. (F.)
81-83. tailor ... clothes ... make thee; cf. II. 3. 77-79, note.
86. injurious, insolent; cf. III. 1. 46.
90. Toad. ..Adder, Spider; similarly united in Rich. II. III. 2. 14,
15, 20; Rich. III. I. 2. 19; all having a bad reputation for "venom." (F.)
92. mere confusion, utter destruction, mere; see G.
97. proper, own (Lat. proprius, 'own').
106. absolute, positive; absolutely certain ; cf. "perfect" (118).
109-112. Cloten is fierce ("fell") been when grown up he was too stupid to understand why he should be afraid: misuse of judgment is often the cause of fear (i.e. the over-intellectual man goes
to the other extreme and perceives too many reasons for fear).
I borrow this interpretation of defect from Professor Herford's note,
but feel some doubt about it. Theobald's change, which used to hold
the field, viz. th' effect instead of defect gave excellent sense and a thoroughly Shakespearean antithesis (effect ...cause). Much less satisfactory was Hanmer's cure of fear (keeping defect).
Theobald paraphrased the passage as emended by him thus: "Cloten was defective in judgment, and therefore did not fear. Apprehensions of fear grow from a judgment in weighing dangers." Shakespeare never uses apprehension = 'fear'; except in two places where it has the literal sense 'seizure, arrest,' it always has the idea of 'conception' or
129. For, merely because.
132. humour. Theobald's certain correction of the Folio's honour. Malone gives other instances where the words have been confused in the Folio or Quarto of Shakespeare. It gives admirable sense: "though he was always fickle to the last degree, and governed by humour, not sound sense; yet not madness itself could make him so
hardy [as] to attempt an enterprise of this nature alone, and unseconded." Elizabethans are fond of the word humour and it meant more for them, from the old physiology of the "humours." Cf. the titles of Ben
Jonson's two comedies.
151. the creek; "the stream" of 184. The word is used thus in America; with us it is oftener applied to an inlet of the sea. (F.)
160. i.e. not too powerful for us to combat.
167. gain, restore.
186. my ingenious instrument; apparently a sort of Aeolian harp.
The Folio has ingenuous. (F.)
193. lamenting toys, to grieve over trifles, toys; see Glossary.
197. Imogen, as dead. Her trance has been compared with
205. crare, small vessel; see Glossary. This correction of the Folio's
care is adopted universally.
209. Stark, stiff, rigid; the old sense, as in phrases like "stark and stiff," "lie stark in death." The etymological idea is 'stiff, strong'; cf. Germ. stark.
214. clouted brogues, rough shoes studded with nails; see each
word in Glossary.
218-229. Marina in Pericles (IV), strewing flowers on the grave
of her nurse: a scene of absolute Shakespeare.
222. Cf. II. 2. 22, 23. harebell, wild hyacinth.
223. eglantine, sweet-briar; connected with F. aiguille, 'needle'
(i.e. the prickly shrub).
224. ruddock; the bird with the ruddy breast, the robin.
Most readers will ask with Bishop Percy (of the Reliques)-. "Is this an allusion to the 'Babes in the Wood,' or was the notion of the red-breast covering dead bodies general before the writing of that ballad?" Editors show that it was a very ancient idea. Shakespeare's readers would certainly think of the ballad, "the most famous of all
ballads" in Elizabethan times; published in 1595.
229. To winter-ground; "to cover up in the ground (as a plant with straw etc.)." Said to be a gardener's term.
243. Great griefs... medicine the less. Much the same thought as I. 1. 135, 136. Editors compare King Lear, ill. 5. 8.
244. He was a queen's son. "Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king's daughter," 2 Kings ix. 34. Cf. v. 5. 291; and the scroll on the body of Thaisa in Pericles, III. 2 (a genuine
part of the play):
"I, King Pericles, have lost
This queen, worth all our mundane cost.
Who finds her, give her burying;
She was the daughter of a king."
247, 248. "Reverence, or due regard to subordination, is the power that keeps peace and order in the world" -- Johnson.
252. Thersites...Ajax. A Troilus and Crcssida echo.
255. we must lay his head to the east; a reversal of the Christian
custom of interment. (F.) One wonders what the "reason for 't" was. Some think, because the time of Cymbeline is pre-Christian.
268. physic, i.e. even "the art of those whose immediate study is the prolongation of life" -- Johnson. So again in V. 5. 28-30.
271. thunder-stone, thunder-bolt; cf. Julius Caesar, 1. 3. 49.
275. Consign to thee; "seal the same contract with thee, i.e. add their names to thine upon the register of death" -- Steevens.
276. No exorciser harm thee! i.e. by raising, calling up, her spirit from the grave. Exorcise always has this idea in Shakespeare; not that of drawing evil spirits out of people (Acts xix. 13) and 'laying'
278. "Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost," Comus, 434.
280. consummation, end; Hamlet, III. 1. 63.
285. Upon their faces. Who, till it is pointed out, remembers
that actually there was only one face (the body of Cloten being
289. The age-long thought that all things proceed from Nature and, perishing, pass back into Nature: omniparens eadem rerum commune sepulcrum (Lucretius, V. 260).
"The earth that's Nature's mother is her tomb;
What is her burying grave that is her womb" --
Romeo and Juliet, II. 3. 9, 10.
293. 'Ods pittikins! God's pity; or rather, 'little pity.' This
corruption of God's occurs in many phrases, e.g. Od's bodikins.
301. fume; "a delusion, a fantasm, anything hindering, like a
mist, the function of the brain" -- Schmidt.
The physiology is that of Macbeth, I. 7. 65, 66. Milton uses fume of
the harmful vapours generated by food or drink -- e.g. the forbidden
Fruit (Par. Lost. ix. 1050) and wine (Samson Agonistes, 551, 552).
310-313. His foot Mercurial ... Martial ... his jovial face ... madded
Hecuba. All Hamlet touches; cf. II. 2. 523-541, 584-586; III. 4. 56-59.
315. irregulous, lawless, licentious; the word is not found elsewhere. She evidently thinks that Pisanio had induced Posthumus to come to Milford.
325. pregnant, clear, obvious; see Glossary
337. confiners; perhaps 'borderers'; people living on the confines; but Shakespeare often uses confine = 'territory,' so that confiners might mean 'the people of a territory,' and so 'inhabitants.'
341. Syenna; said to mean 'the ruler of Sienna'; like France -- 'the French king.'
345, 346. dream ... vision. A frequent contrast. Cf. Cowley's Essays: "I fell at last into this vision; or if you please to call it but a dream, I shall not take it ill, because the father of poets Homer tells us, even dreams too are from God"; where Dr Lumby's note (Pitt Press ed. p. 197) is:
"In visions a higher degree of revelation was supposed to be imparted than in dreams. Cf. Select Discourses of John Smith, p. 184:
'The Jews are wont to make a vision superior to a dream, as representing things more to the life.'" The same distinction is seen in Bacon's Advancement of Learning, I. 3. 3. See Comus, 457; Par. Lost, XI. 377, xii. 611 (note).
347. I fast and pray d. Shakespeare often makes one termination,
whether inflexion or suffix, serve for a pair of words. Cf. Sonnet XXI. "With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems," i.e. earth's; Sonnet lxxx. "The humble as the proudest sail," i.e. humble; Julius Caesar, II. 1. 224, "Good gentlemen, look fresh and merily," i.e.
349. the spongy south; cf. II. 3. 130, note. to this part of the west. Perhaps a Holinshed touch: When Aulus Plautius was sailing to invade Britain, "the marriners and men of wane" were encouraged by seeing "a fierie leame [light] to shoot out of the east toward the west, which way their course lay" -- Stone.
377. Richard du Champ; a French name, in Roman times; but the Italian names in the play are equal anachronisms. Editors quote various instances from Elizabethan plays and stories.
386. prefer, recommend; cf. 400 and II. 3. 45.
389. these poor pickaxes, i.e. her fingers.
394. entertain me, take me into your service.
399. partisans; see Glossary.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Cymbeline. Ed. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press, 1899. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/cymbel_4_2.html >.
How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/cymbel_4_2.html >.
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