Review: Cymbeline

Posted 20 August, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: eBook; my copy

The King of Britain, enraged by his daughter’s disobedience in marrying against his wishes, banishes his new son-in-law. Having fled to Rome, the exiled husband makes a foolish wager with a villain he encounters there gambling on the fidelity of his abandoned wife.

Combining courtly menace and horror, comedy and melodrama, Cymbeline is a moving depiction of two young lovers driven apart by deceit and self-doubt.

Moving along with my Shakespeare reading this year is Cymbeline. Perhaps not as familiar as Shakespeare’s other historical titles, I believe I was compelled to pick up this title having listened to Loreena McKennit’s song “Cymbeline” (listen here).

This book is part of the William Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.

Unfortunately I found Cymbeline to be a rather boring read. You get a sense of what the story is about within the first two to three scenes, but I was having a bit of trouble understanding what the underlying conflicts were; the sense of urgency just wasn’t there. The conflict is obviously a political one in nature, dealing with Caesar and political marriages and successions that normally grab my attention, but they just don’t as I was reading the play. It also feels like there are two storylines running in this play that sort of meet, but otherwise feels like they are two completely different stories–that involving Imogen and the other with Cymbeline. For a play named after Cymbeline, his presence is certainly not as felt as Leonatus and Imogen’s story, which was very strange.

Themes of trickery, bets, disguises, falsehoods, children kidnapped and growing up without knowing their true parentage, and couples not trusting each other are rampant in this play. Maybe it’s because these themes have been utilised in other plays, and better-utilised at that, because it felt rather tiring in this play. I just could not find any of the characters interesting, despite of the political machinations happening in this story. I really wished I had liked it more but it was just pretty boring all around.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

p.s. Having read the play now, looking at the Penguin cover is rather creeptastic =S

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2 Responses to “Review: Cymbeline”

  1. Cymbeline is one of those Shakespeare plays that I can’t remember one thing about. Even when I read your synopsis, nothing was coming back to me at all! I read it about 20 years ago, so I must have found it boring too!

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