The following passage is from Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’ Act 4 Scene 2. In the quoted lines Innogen identifies Clotens to be Posthumus due to Posthumus’ garment worn by Clotens. Innogen looks at Clotens’ body and his garments and says “I know the shape of`s leg; this is his hand”. According to her, his foot is ‘Mercurial’ and thighs “Marcial’. From the first act the audience is accustomed to see a chaste Innogen who is attracted only to her husband, Postumus. However in this passage Innogene is made to speak admiring words about Clotens which is ironic to the audience.
Her instant decision based on the garment is a kind of an amusement to the audience who is aware of the identity of the corpse. Innogene believes that she know Posthumus well enough to identify him without the head or the ‘jovial face’. The audience may expect better judgment from Innogene who till then did show good judgment in choosing Postumus to Clotens. This passage shows that Postumus and Clotens were more similar looking than Innogene would want to believe.
These similarities are mentioned by Clotens in “I mean, the lines of my body are as well drawn as his;” in Act 4, Scene 1(9-10). She tries to see some logical reason for the gruesome murder of her husband. The first possibility that comes to her mind is Pisanio’s involvement. She suspects him to have revealed the details about Posthumous to Clotens. Everyone except Innogene knows that Pisanio has got nothing to do with this murder. Moreover Innogene is unable to think logically, for, if Pisanio was the culprit he may not have helped and sent her in pursuit of Posthumus.
She concludes that Pisanio has joined with Clotens to kill Posthumus. In the passage Innogene call Clotens, “irregulous devil Clotens”. Clotens is interested in marrying Innogen. When he found out that this was not possible because she chose to be the wife of Posthumus, Clotens decided to murder Posthumus and rape her. He goes to the wilderness in search of Posthumous with pure hatred in his heart. Nevertheless he wears Posthumus’ garments while seeking out Posthumus and Innogene.
This is ironic that he chose to wear the dress of his opponent in subduing him. He may have thought this would be a nice way to torture Innogene with the thoughts of her dead husband when he uses force on her. This may heighten the misery. This however goes a long way to show the cruel nature of Clotens. On the other hand the audience sees that Posthumus is aggrieved for ordering the death of his wife. He is repentant and tries to seek his own punishment by surrendering as a Roman soldier in to the hand of British troops.
During the battle he takes the side of his motherland and protects it from the enemy attack, fulfilling the duty of the son of the soil. Deception in costume plays its part here again when he dresses as an Englishman and fights with Iachimo. Posthumus and Clotens are two opposite forces juxtaposed to bring out their contrasting natures to intensify the final good over evil concept. However Innogenes’ misunderstanding in identifying the corpse is the climax of this parallelism. This is an important scene in this play due to the death of Clotens and his misidentification as Postumous.
Clotens has been the shadow of Posthumus throughout the play. At every mention of Posthumus there is a direct comparison drawn with Clotens as both are interested in noble Innogene. Death of Clotens signifies the death of evil and victory of good. However at this stage not all threads in the play are brought to a conclusive end. Moreover the difference between both is so strong that it needs to have a lingering effect for some time until alls well. Hence this scene is a good device to conclude the play in a progressive gradation.
Courtney from Study Moose
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