The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Cymbeline: With Annotations and a General Introduction by Sidney Lee

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Windham Press, 2013 - 188 pages
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Cymbeline with Annotations and a General Introduction by Sidney Lee

By William Shakespeare


If it could be assumed, with any strong probability, that "Cymbeline," which ends the First Folio, was really the last play which Shakespeare wrote, several difficulties which present themselves in connection with it might be resolved at once. It contains one of the most perfect of Shakespeare's women, two gallant boys, a notable villain; with rapid, summarising studies in jealousy, a murderous queen, a royal clown, done as if from memory or on second thoughts. There are pastoral scenes in it which can only be compared with the pastoral scenes in "The Winter's Tale"; and they are written in verse of the same free and happy cadence. Yet the play is thrown together loosely, rather as if it were a novel, to be read, than a play, to be acted. The action is complicated here, neglected there. A scene of sixteen lines is introduced to say that the tribunes are required to raise more forces for the war, and that Lucius is to be general. The last scene is five hundred lines long, and has to do as much business as all the rest of the play. The playwright seems no longer to have patience with his medium; it is as if his interest had gone out of it, and he were using it as the only makeshift at hand.

Most artists, at the end of their careers, become discontented with the form in which they have worked. They have succeeded through obedience to this form, but it seems to them that a rarer success lies, uncaptured, outside those limits. They are tempted by what seems lawless in life itself; by what is certainly various and elastic in life. They are impatient with the slowness of results, with their rigidity, inside those inexorable limits. The technique which they have perfected seems to them too perfect; something cries out of chains, and they would set the voice, or Ariel, free.

That spirit, I think, we see in the later plays of Shakespeare, in which not only does metre dissolve and reform, in some new, fluctuant way of its own, but the whole structure becomes vaporous, and floats out through the solid walls of the theatre. Even "The Tempest," when I have seen it acted, lost the greater part of its magic, and was no longer that "cloudcapt" promontory in "faery seas forlorn," the last foothold of human life on the edge of the world. What sense of loss do we feel when we see "Othello" acted? "Othello" has nothing to lose; the playwright has never forgotten the walls of his theatre. In "Cymbeline" he is frankly tired of them.

"Cymbeline" is a romance, made out of Holinshed, and Boccaccio, and perhaps nursery stories, and it is that happiest kind of romance...


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About the author (2013)

William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry. By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true. Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.

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