Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1
From Cymbeline. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press.
1-33. "This is a soliloquy of nature, uttered when the effervescence of a mind agitated and perturbed spontaneously and inadvertently discharges itself in words. The speech, if the last conceit be excepted, seems to issue warm from the heart" -- Johnson. Contrast a speech like III. 3. 79-107, where soliloquy is used simply as a piece
of dramatic machinery.
with a bloody handkerchief; sent by Pisanio as a sign that he has killed Imogen.
5. wrying, going astray.
6, 7. So Bolingbroke, having instigated Exton to rid him of
King Richard, afterwards affects displeasure (Richard II. v. 6. 30-52).
9. to put on this, to instigate the deed.
14. elder, later. "The last deed is certainly not the oldest, but Shakespeare calls the deed of an elder man an elder deed" -- Johnson.
Another editor explains: "where corruptions are, they grow with years, and the oldest sinner is the greatest. You, Gods, permit some to proceed in iniquity, and the older such are, the more their crime."
15. thrift, gain, advantage. "It is not the commission of the crimes that is supposed to be for the doer's thrift, but his dreading them afterwards, and of course repenting, which ensures his salvation" -- Mason. The whole speech, as he notes, is in a religious strain. dread it, i.e. their life of accumulated crime. For dread it, Theobald proposed dreaded: a picture of successful crime which inspires awe, gains profit, and apparently escapes punishment.
21-33. Cf. the later descriptions of the disguised Posthumus -- viz.
"forlorn," i.e. forlorn-looking, ragged (v. 5. 4), "in poor beseeming"
(v. 5. 405-409).
23. weeds, clothes.
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_5_1.html >.
How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/cymbel_5_1.html >.
Thoughts on Posthumus
"One cannot choose but wish that the Poet had made [Posthumus] hold out a little more firmly against the forged or stolen evidences of his wife's infidelity, and keep his faith at least till the last and strongest item was produced. It is observable, that the Poet represents his very fullness of confidence at first as rendering him all the more liable to the reverse in the contingency that is to arrive: because he is perfectly sure that no proofs of success can be shown by Iachimo, therefore, when some such proofs are shown, he falls the more readily into the opposite state." (Henry Norman Hudson) Read on...
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