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MonkeyNotes-Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
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THEME Analysis

TRIUMPH OF TRUTH OVER FALSEHOOD IN CYMBELINE

Cymbeline treats uniformly two opposed moral qualities: truth and fidelity in word and falsehood and faithlessness. The play dramatizes the slow but sure triumph of Truth over Falsehood. This opposition has its clearest illustration in the character of Imogen, the heroine. Her main feature is a calm, self-assured, immovable fidelity. All other virtues follow in its train. She inspires others who are near to her and bound to her in closest bonds of loyalty. Her truth begets truth and even Iachimo and the Queen are compelled to resort to it.

It is the recognition of these two virtues - truth and fidelity - which preoccupies Shakespeare's central attention. It is true that no one can keep his life wholly free from falsehood, deceit and violence towards others. However, neither ostensible falsehood nor deceit, nor violence is always and inevitably a crime. It is often a legitimate weapon, a necessary evil. All the noble characters in this play have to preserve their loyalty by resorting to some kind of ostensible falsehood. Imogen disobeys her father by marrying the man of her choice. She later ostensibly deceives Belarius and the two young men by telling them that she is a page named Fidele. Similarly she narrates a fictitious account to Lucius. She characteristically calls herself Fidele quite untruthfully. Yet the name appropriately fits her from a more elevated point of view. Although she wears a deceptive appearance, her true virtues are unable to be hidden. Even her brothers see her as the lovely woman she is beneath her disguise.


Pisanio apparently deceives both the Queen and Cloten and later on even the King. The Queen's doctor, Cornelius, can be readily pardoned for cheating her but he does so in the higher cause of loyalty and truth. Posthumus is more willing to believe evidence of his wife's infidelity than trust her for the good person she is. Belarius is right in condemning the wickedness of courtly life, but he robs the King of both his sons. In another sense, he saves them for him and for the country from the wily Queen, their stepmother. The King is deceived by the Queen's and Cloten's appearance of good intentions and is unable to discern their evil nature and thereby unintentionally hurts his daughter and son-in-law. It is only the Queen and Cloten who are actually more maligned than they appear to many and by the end of the play, both of these characters are dead.

Thus, all the good characters in Cymbeline live their whole lives apparently under false guises. However, they do not in the least deviate from their moral worth. They flirt with evil without being defiled and eventually by the end of the play are more enlightened about their own natures as well as others. In the final analysis, in the world created by Shakespeare in Cymbeline truth ultimately triumphs over falsehood.

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