And now a short break with our two young lovers; after all, every fairy tale needs two young lovers who must face all kinds of difficulties, and here they contemplate their separation. Of course, this should remind us of Shakespeare’s earlier works. Indeed, Cymbeline is full of self-reference, almost as if Shakespeare is playing a game of “can you spot the allusion?” In so ding, Shakespeare is turning his work into a meta-theatrical event, thereby raising the audience’s awareness that they are indeed watching a play, part of whose function is to evoke other plays. In short, this play becomes a sort of commentary on the art of play writing, and on the nature of the theatre itself. Here in thinking of separation Shakespeare evokes Romeo and Juliet in Imogen’s short phrase “Such parting were too petty,” reminding us of Juliet’s “Parting is such sweet sorrow” (2.1.185). (If you don’t find this particularly convincing, subsequent similar allusions to other plays might well do in retrospect). On top of that, Shakespeare now throws in the old theatrical trick of the lovers exchanging tokens–Imogen gives Posthumus a ring, he gives her a bracelet (described somewhat paradoxically as a “manacle of love,” and interestingly Imogen has enjoined him to wear the ring “till you woo another wife / When Imogen is dead”). The ever-alert viewer now knows that both ring and bracelet will become important plot-resolving elements and need to be followed attentively. As if to underline the point, the tokens are no sooner exchanged and Imogen has said “O the gods! / When shall we see again!” than ENTER CYMBELINE AND LORDS!! Every such plot story needs a heavy-handed, tyrannical king to intervene–and voila!!
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