Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 4
From Cymbeline. A.W. Verity. Cambridge, University Press.
6. If these doubtful hopes are realised Posthumus can still barely repay the kindness of Philario, and if they fail he must remain his
16. statist, statesman, politician; Hamlet, V. 2. 33. An obsolete sense, the word now being limited to the use 'one who deals in statistics, a statistician.'
22. their lack of skill. A Holinshed echo: "the British nation was then unskilfull, and not trained to feats of arms, for the Britons then being onelie used to the Picts and Irish enimies, people halfe naked, through lacke of skill easilie gaue place to the Romans force" -- Stone.
24. mingled; printed wing-led in the Folio; and the "wings" have been variously pictured as those of an army or of the Roman standards (eagles). Devotion to the Folio sometimes savours of fanaticism. (F.)
25, 26. their approvers, those who test them, mend upon the world, get the upper hand of others.
27-29. Perhaps Shakespeare's way of excusing his "offence against one of the unities [i.e. of place], in the precipitate return of Iachimo from the court of Cymbeline" -- Steevens. The wording is a
little reminiscent of The Merchant of Venice, II. 7. 39, 40, and Macbeth, I. 3. 33.
30. your answer, i.e. from Imogen.
61. circumstances, circumstantial report; the details which he can give.
66. "Iachimo's language is such as a skilful villain would naturally use, a mixture of airy triumph and serious deposition" -- Johnson.
Shakespeare, of course, took that description from the Life of
Antony in North's Plutarch, the work which furnished him with the materials (and not a few passages) of his Roman plays, and which shares with Golding's translation of Ovid (see II. 2. 45, note) the
honour of having supplied most of his knowledge of the classics.
83. So likely to report themselves, so lifelike that you might have expected them to speak. 'A speaking likeness,' as we say. Lively for likely is quite a needless change.
83-85. i.e. the sculptor had done his work as cleverly as Nature herself -- nay, surpassed her -- except that he could not endow the figures with power of speech, motion etc.
86. relation, report ; see G.
88. cherubins... fretted; see each in G. "The ceilings of Shakespeare's time were the most characteristic product of the period," i.e. in domestic architecture; being, in large houses, often of elaborate design and ornamentation. See the chapter on "Architecture" in Shakespeare's England, 1916.
89. winking, blind; the traditional representation of Cupid. The fire-irons supporting the wood-fire were two figures of Cupid bearing torches ("brands"), symbolical of love, and the figures were so moulded that they leaned upon the torches. The design is one which the student must picture for himself. Herford aptly compares Sonnets CLIII, 154.
91. This is her honour! and does her honour depend on this
95, 96. Be pale. "If you can, forbear to flush your cheek with rage" -- Johnson.
107. basilisk; a "fabulous reptile, also called cockatrice, supposed to be hatched from a cock's egy and said to kill by its breath and look."
110-112. i.e. let the vows women make be as frail as their virtues.
Note the alternations in the feelings of Posthumus and the fine
working up to the climax.
115. probable; "capable of being proved, demonstrable." (F.)
127. cognizance, badge.
132. one persuaded well of --. The Folio does not mark the break,
but the sense seems to be 'one who is convinced of her truth.' (F.)
147. limb-meal, limb by limb; see G.
151. pervert, turn into a different channel.
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_4.html >.
Notes on Posthumus
"The fiendishly cruel and clever way in which Iachimo gradually enfolds Posthumus in the snare he has prepared for him requires the closest examination, step by step. The same eloquence, that spread
its toils in vain for the seduction of Imogen, now serves the villain's purpose only too speedily and well. Observe as you read the successive moves in the game -- from Imogen's letters proving the visit to the court of Britain until Iachimo makes Posthumus see "her pretty action" of stripping the bracelet from her arm and reduces him to the last desperate suggestion, "May be she pluck'd it off to send it me" -- by which Posthumus' reason and judgment are taken prisoner, so that at last he passes sentence, not like a judge, but in the temper of a raving madman." (Alfred J. Wyatt. In his edition of Cymbeline.)
Shakespeare's Signature ... The Elizabethans cared as little for spelling as they did for the Spanish and nowhere is their comical disregard for simple consistency more evident than in their treatment of the surname Shakespeare. And how did Shakespeare spell his own name, anyway? Find out...
Shakespeare's Treatment of Jealousy in Othello...
"The task lay before the Poet to exhibit the passions of jealousy to that extent in which the lover can be thought capable of destroying the object of his love.
We think a man of inflamed sensibility, of heated blood, of the most violent irritability, especially capable of such a deed; and even him only in the frenzy of intoxication, in the sudden incentive of opportunity, in the feverish excitement of a fit of rage. But such a deed would never be a subject for art; such a man, acting in an irresponsible condition, would never win our sympathy for his tragic fate. But could it be conceivable that such a deed could ever be committed by a man of fixed character and steadfast disposition, who, indeed, before the act had captivated our interest? in whom this passion, one of the lowest which actuate a man, could appear so ennobled that he, even in spite of and after such a deed, could engage our sympathy, ay, even excite our pity? It would appear improbable. And yet the Poet, in Othello, has made such a man commit such a deed; or, rather, he has made it even there be committed by a man who united two natures, calmness with ardour, rashness with circumspection, the traits which make the murder possible, and those which allow us to admire and pity the murderer." (G. G. Gervinus. Shakespeare)