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Act I, Scene 2
Cloten, the Queen's son by a former marriage, enters with two lords. His shirt is torn and bloody after his confrontation with Posthumus, and one of the lords advises him to change it. Cloten is more interested in inquiring if Posthumus has been injured. To Cloten's various questions, the First Lord gives placating, false replies while the Second Lord, in a series of asides, lets the audience know the real state of affairs. It is learned that Cloten, although so full of self-importance, could not even inflict a scratch on Posthumus. When Cloten pompously declares that he could have defeated Posthumus, if the courtiers had not restrained him, the Second Lord in an aside explains that if he had not been restrained, Cloten would have had to face the indignity of being thrown to the ground by his superior rival. Cloten cannot understand how Imogen could love such a man and refuse him. He then repairs to his chamber to change, attended by his lords.
This short scene introduces Cloten, a conceited coward. He boasts so much that in any company he can easily pass for a fool. The First Lord flatters him to such an extent that it calls into question his sincerity while the Second Lord ridicules him in "asides." This scene is comedic and relies on the dramatic effect of having the Second Lord undermine everything Cloten says with his insults.
A rich commentary upon the dramatic effect of the scene comes from Granville-Barker: "Half the effect of Cloten's first scene lies in the peculiar pattern given to the action of it by the Second Lord's strange succession of asides." Cloten is crossing the stage, returning to his apartments from the frustrated duel, with the First Lord fawning on him. The Second Lord follows, five spaces or so behind, commenting on the conversation he can just overhear. There will be a very slight midway pause, then the walk continues. Within reach of the door Cloten turns and sees the Second Lord for the first time. He catches him in the midst of his final mocking aside. A scene of no great importance, it serves to introduce Cloten, and to fill up the "half-hour" for Posthumus's embarking. The whole scene strikes one as essentially comic.