By Dennis Abrams
It’s the holiday season. And so, as Publishing Perspective’s epic reading of the complete plays (and some of the sonnets) of William Shakespeare, The Play’s The Thing. continues on, we’re saying goodbye to tragedy. Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus are done. We’re on to the last plays, the Romances, the tragicomedies, and first up: Cymbeline.
A play known for its haunting bittersweetness, it is truly tragicomic, an intensely moving fairy-tale, or, as Marjorie Garber describes it, “Part history, part romance, part revenge tragedy, and part satire, incorporating pastoral themes and lyric songs of an unusual beauty, Cymbeline, King of Britain is a curious play, presenting one of Shakespeare’s most complicated and hard-to-summarize plots.” (It is though, I think, the very “hard to summarize” aspect of the play that demonstrates Shakespeare using the improvisatory qualities of his art in a way that we didn’t get to see in the earlier plays.)
It is also, undeniably, a work of extraordinary beauty, as noted by A.D. Nuttell in Shakespeare the Thinker:
Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages,
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
“I first heard these lines when I was about eight years old. They ravished me at once and have haunted me ever since. I knew nothing about Shakespeare. I suppose that if today somebody were to ask me, ‘What is the finest lyric poem in the English language?’ I would point to this. And yet I do not understand the lines.”
Our reading will begin this Sunday evening. We hope you’ll join us as we explore this extraordinary work.
Purchase the play here
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