Cymbeline as Mother

In: English and Literature

Submitted By kkang36
Words 2458
Pages 10
Kin Kang
Dr. Tredennick
English 330

Cymbeline as Mother
When reading through Shakespeare’s tragicomedy, Cymbeline, I tended to want to find the archetypal vices in the heros of the play. Among the most honorable characters: Posthumous, Imogen, Guiderius, and Arviragus, we find that only Posthumous seems to have the only recognizable character flaw in bargaining off his wife for gold. In almost all respects, the children of Cymbeline are perfect characters within the Elizabethan patriarchal ideal. The three of them have an incomplete parentage in the play, having an absent mother, and being displaced in the case of the boys. With the role of motherhood being so very important to child-development, the question becomes: how did these perfect characters get this way without the essential role of the mother? Of course in the heavily misogynistic society, the mother plays the part of enemy even in parenting, as the female body and character is something that must be conquered in order to successfully rear virtuous sons. In this play, this challenge is sidestepped by Cymbeline’s claim to motherhood. In Cymbeline, Shakespeare creates a familial fantasy within which the role of the mother is fully excised from the gender play of traditional Elizabethan parenthood, fostering purely masculine childrearing. Cymbeline takes on the role of the mother, embodying a purer space for child development that rids itself of the female body: the source of contamination to the ideal masculine character and form. This makes his children perfect in each of their respective personas, who are at that advantage of having a solely patriarchal parentage. In her essay, “The Absent Mother in King Lear”, Coppelia Kahn explores the effect of the also absent mother on the titular character of King Lear. Kahn’s argument is that Lear’s masculine identity deteriorates and fails to…...

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