Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 2
From Cymbeline. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press.
We have here a good illustration how a change of scene was indicated in the Elizabethan theatre by the simple expedient of pushing on the stage, or taking off, some movable piece of furniture, like a bed or a "bank" of flowers (Hamlet, III. 2. 146, stage-direction). The Folio, which does not mark changes of scene like modern texts, has the stage-direction, "Enter Imogen, in her Bed." "This abrupt method of changing the scene was often employed to indicate a bed-room" -- Shakespeare's England, 1916, II. 270. The study of stage-directions is a feature of modern Shakespearean scholarship. They throw much light on the actual production of plays in the Elizabethan theatre.
1. Brutus reading in his tent before the ghost of Caesar appears (Julius Caesar, IV. 3. 273, 274, 276).
5. Lady Macbeth (V. 1) in the sleep-walking scene.
11-14. Macbeth, II. 1. 55 ; II. 2. 16.
the rushes; with which, of course, Elizabethan floors were strewn. It is scarcely necessary to refer to Shakespeare's own poem Lucrece.
14. Likening her to Venus ("Cytherea," from Cythera, one of the Ionian Islands, sacred to Venus).
18. do't, i.e. kiss each other. They (emphatic), the lips, do that which he dare not attempt.
22, 23. Macbeth again (II. 3. 118), but with a pleasanter context; see also IV. 222.
26. arras, tapestry hangings on the walls.
27. the story, i.e. represented on the arras; we learn later what it was (II. 4. 69-76).
34. Gordian; see Glossary.
37, 38. From Boccaccio.
38, 39. crimson drops ... cowslip. The Fairy sings in A Midsummer Night's Dream, II. 1. 6-13:
"I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savors."
45. It is thought that Shakespeare himself read the story (see Titus Andronicus, IV. 1. 42-49) of Tereus and Procne in the translation (bk. vi.) of Ovid's Metamorphoses by Arthur Golding. This has been described as "one of Shakespeare's best-loved books in youth." To it he owed much of his classical lore in general; with certain special items, such as the "interlude" of "Pyramus and Thisbe" (Midsummer-N. D.), the ingredients of the Witches' cauldron in Macbeth IV. 1, and "Ye elves of hills" passage in The Tempest, V. 33.
48. you dragons of the night. So Puck warns Oberon (Midsummer-N. D.) III. 2. 378-380:
"My fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
For Night's swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora's harbinger."
In classical writers only Demeter (or Ceres), goddess of the Earth, is represented as being drawn in her chariot by dragons (i.e. winged serpents, supposed not to sleep); cf. Ovid, Fasti, IV. 497, 561, 562.
The chariot of Night (personified) is yoked with horses; cf. Statius,
Thebais, II. 60, sopor obvius illi, Noctis agebat equos. So Milton speaks of "the Night-steeds," Nativity Ode, 236. Minute accuracy in such matters is not to be required of a poet. Milton often varies mythology to suit his purpose; for instance, he gives the Moon a dragon-team (Il Penseroso, 59, 60, Comus, 131). The word dragon comes from a root 'to see.'
49. bare, lay bare, open; one of Theobald's changes; the Folio has beare, only a difference of one letter. The raven was supposed
to be a very early bird. Iachimo prays for daylight, so that he may
50. hell is here; explained surely by "I lodge in fear." His sense of the danger of his situation is put in an exaggerated form simply to get the antithesis with the first part of the line. The idea that he is suddenly conscience-stricken and means his own breast by here seems to me fantastic.
Clock strikes; and its time, as the vigilant Malone observes, does not agree very well with line 2. But no one marks these discrepancies till they are pointed out.
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_2_2.html >.
How to cite the sidebar:
Mabillard, Amanda. Notes on Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 10 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/cymbel_2_2.html >.
The famous Victorian era poet Algernon Charles Swinburne declared Cymbeline to be "the play of plays." "Here," he writes, "is depth enough with height enough of tragic beauty and passion, terror and love and pity, to approve the presence of the most tragic Master's hand... and subtlety enough of sweet and bitter truth to attest the passage of the mightiest and wisest scholar or teacher in the school of human spirit." (A Study of Shakespeare)
Director Michael Almereyda and Ethan Hawke are teaming up to bring us a modern-day film adaptation of Shakespeare's masterpiece, Cymbeline. Hawke will play the mischief-loving villain, Iachimo. Please click here to read more and view the trailer.
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