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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTERS

Imogen

The heroine of the play, Imogen occupies the pride of place as both a woman and later as a man. In male disguise, Imogen impresses old and weather-wise Belarius who describes her as "divineness no elder than a boy." Even Iachimo describes her as a "heavenly angel." To the two princes she is a "sweet rosy lad -- an earthly paragon." Iachimo admits, "she is one the fairest" he has ever seen. This compliment from a gallant and cavalier womanizer indicates the supreme charm of her personality. She has eyes with "their harmless lightning", her cheeks with "their rarest treasure, and her "laboursome dainty trims wherein she makes great Juno angry" are the few details of her attractive personality. The fact is borne out by what Cloten, the rank sensualist, says that she is the best among women: "from everyone the best she hath, and she of all compounded, outsells them all." He sees her in terms of a commodity and is too dimwitted to appreciate her moral and intellectual qualities, only what she can offer as an object of worth.

Tender and sweet although she is, she does not fail to realize instinctively that these qualities have a limited impact in the human world. She marries secretly without her father's consent and is resolute about withstanding all the dire consequences of her action, which are inevitable in view of the machinations of the "crafty devil," the Queen. Her conscience is clear, though she has defied her father in choosing Posthumus as her husband, but she gets angry when he disparages Posthumus by telling her that she has married a beggar and thereby made his throne a seat of baseness.


Imogen is usually calm and subdued, serenely patient, though she is "hourly shot of angry eyes." She suffers the advances of Cloten, "that harsh, noble, simple nothing" although she is not afraid to tell him what she really thinks of him. She stands like a pillar of strength, while passing through what appears to be an unending series of catastrophes. She loses her temper only twice and that when her husband is subjected to vilest derision. The explosive manner with which she blows off Cloten is as rare as it is powerful.

Notwithstanding her trials and vexations, she is depicted as one born for happiness. The most prominent quality of hers, that is fully displayed everywhere, is her conjugal tenderness. Only one relation in life can stir her to passionate utterance, her relation to Posthumus. The leave-taking scene is full of tender pathos. Later when she receives the invitation of her husband to meet him at Milford-Haven, her eagerness and joy exhibit the beauty and delicacy of her ardent love for her husband. It is owing to her deep and sincere attachment to him that the final reconciliation between the two becomes so easy.

Although a princess, Imogen does not seem to be ambitious. For her love, she is prepared to sacrifice a kingdom. Later when her brothers are reintegrated into the kingdom, she graciously concedes her position as next in line to the throne to them, looking at it as an opportunity to have two worlds rather than one. Purity and selflessness are wonderfully combined in her personality. The lyrical homage, which the court musicians pay her when they sing at the door of her bedchamber, beautifully summarizes her charms: "With everything that pretty is / My lady sweet, arise / Arise, arise." In Imogen's very appearance all sweet and beautiful visions are sure to arise. In fact, some may say she is too ideal a character to be realistic, which is why it is called a romance and has fantastical qualities. Imogen stands for all that is good and pure in the royal family whereas the Queen can be seen as her antithesis.

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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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