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Author: Jennifer Forsyth
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Cymbeline: Introduction


45Character

Posthumus

Described in superlative terms by the two Gentlemen at the beginning of Act 1—traditionally, a position where the audience can rely on the exegesis to be accurate—Posthumus' behavior and judgment, first in accepting the wager and then in believing Iachimo's "evidence" that Imogen has been unfaithful, deserve scrutiny, especially in context of Iachimo's and Clotten's behavior. One gentleman of the court describes Posthumus to a stranger, pointing out Imogen's obvious valuation of Posthumus in choosing him as her husband despite his lower rank: "her own price / Proclaims how she esteemed him; and his virtue / By her election may be truly read / What kind of man he is" (TLN 60-62). In other words, she is willing to exchange herself, valuable both as the princess of Britain and as a woman of sterling qualities herself, for Posthumus only because he is of equal value. The only detractors of Posthumus early in the play are Cymbeline and his Queen, who find him unworthy of marrying a princess—a position that would have been considered understandable in early modern England, however much it appealed as a conventional plot element—and Clotten, whose insults are patently buffoonish and largely driven by competitive jealousy.

46Posthumus' characterization does not remain idealized for long, however. Shortly afterward, in Rome, Posthumus' excellence is again the subject of conversation, but this time, the villainous Iachimo is present to point out the logical flaws in their assessment. When Iachimo says that Posthumus "must be weighed rather by her value than by his own" (329-30), he turns it from the compliment that it appeared as originally into an insult to both Imogen and to Posthumus: if Posthumus' value does derive from Imogen's having chosen him, rather than demonstrating the merit of both, it in fact denigrates both since Imogen should not take "a beggar without less quality" (337)—as courtiers would no doubt acknowledge, Iachimo suggests, if they were not being servile flatterers.

47Posthumus' own behavior regarding the wager soon raises further doubts about how heroically we are meant to view his character. Given the conventions of early modern chastity plays, where women frequently welcome the chance to prove their loyalty as eagerly as the men wish to test it, it is not surprising that Posthumus accepts Iachimo's wager. Nevertheless, his motivations remain questionable. The convention, as represented in other wager stories, is for a confident husband to accept the wager because he truly believes in his wife's virtue and has no other motive. In Posthumus' case, however, the financial gain which would accompany his winning implies that part of his motivation is a desire to profit from Imogen's virtue. Any hope of economic advantage would be tempting because it would remove one of Cymbeline's primary objections to having Posthumus as a son-in-law, i.e., his lack of income, but in a skewed sense, as Constance Jordan mentions, this approaches making Posthumus a pander for his own wife—a role which would make him the most contemptible of men in the Jacobean period instead of the most admired. In many of the sources, such as Frederyke of Jennen, the husband is a successful merchant who does not need the winnings. At the same time, inasmuch as careful stewardship of money would have been recognized as a virtue, as presented in the Biblical parable of the talents, placing an advantageous bet could even be perceived as morally correct. And for Posthumus, money is one thing he doesn't have but desperately needs. When, just before Iachimo's entry, Philario asks what Posthumus is doing to win the king's approval, Posthumus replies that he has no plan other than to "abide the change of time, / Quake in the present winter's state and wish / That warmer days would come. In these feared hopes / I barely gratify your love; they failing, / I must die much your debtor" (1148-52). Even with the king's favor, he could barely repay Philario (which, although it must be counted as a figure of speech, contains an element of truth to it, too); without the king's approval, he has no strategy for ameliorating his situation.

48Iachimo's insistence on his own wealth makes his provocations all the more pointed. Iachimo illustrates how any perception of value can be manipulated when it becomes a matter of negotiation. Insulting Posthumus' ring at the same time as he attempts to place himself in a position to acquire it, Iachimo comments that he would "dare thereupon pawn the moiety of my estate to your ring, which in my opinion o'ervalues it something" (423-25). He first says that he would wager half of his estate against Posthumus' ring that he could seduce Imogen, even if that "overvalues" the ring; when that is unsuccessful, he pursues the topic, wishing that he "had put my estate and my neighbor's on th'approbation of what I have spoke!" (438-39). Iachimo clinches the deal by offering ten thousand ducats—which, whether in ancient or contemporary times, in Rome or in England, was a kingly sum. If Posthumus is a superior man who simply falls to temptation, he at least accepts the what logically is a very safe bet in the expectation of receiving a reward that could substantially improve his situation.

49In fact, if Iachimo weren't so immorally manipulative, the reader might have to acknowledge the justice of his claims. Posthumus does seem to be falling into the same pattern of behavior for which he is criticized in 1.5: precipitous, nationalistic aggression. Posthumus acknowledges that, the first time he nearly dueled over Imogen's virtue, he "was then a young traveler" (357-58) who preferred to ignore advice or rebel against it than to heed it (which casts doubts on First Gentleman's claims that Posthumus was always so wise that grave men saw him as "A child that guided dotards" (59)), but he proceeds to repeat his previous error of "vouching -- and upon warrant of bloody affirmation -- his to be more fair, virtuous, wise, chaste, constant, qualified, and less attemptable than any the rarest of our ladies in France" (371-75), except that this time he is in Italy. When Iachimo counters by insulting British women in general, he does so on the grounds that Posthumus cannot justly claim that Imogen is better than the rest of the women in the world without having seen or met them. Arguably, Posthumus' lack of tact in maintaining that Imogen is superior to all other women and that she is as valuable as his ring, which is worth "More than the world enjoys" (393), contributes to his victimization by Iachimo in the same way that Collatine's bragging about Lucrece leads to Tarquin's raping her.

50Iachimo's response, "Either your unparagoned mistress is dead, or she's outprized by a trifle" (394-95), reflects the ambiguity inherent in the play and the skill with which Iachimo controls language. A "paragon" is an exemplar of virtue, but "unparagoned," which in context should mean "unequalled" or "unrivaled," could also denote that Imogen has been dethroned from her status as paragon—"un-paragoned." If Imogen is only as valuable as a ring, Iachimo points out, she is "outprized by a trifle" (395) -- again, ambiguously phrased, suggesting either that the ring is worth a "trifle" more than she is, or that the ring, which is simply a "trifle" in the sense of being an item of little importance, is nevertheless more valuable than Imogen. Once Iachimo has prompted Posthumus to (romantically, perhaps) equate Imogen and the ring by playing on his conventionally romantic behavior, it is a simple, logical step to getting Posthumus to place a monetary value on Imogen, and thus Posthumus makes the wager.

51Posthumus' second scene of questionable behavior occurs when Iachimo returns, supposedly with proof of her betrayal. As before, the perspective of another character, Philario, offers a more objective view when Posthumus eventually begins to succumb to Iachimo's rhetoric, but the fact that Posthumus requires such advice in order to consider the possibility that his wife is innocent places him, at least to many 21st-century readers, among the less-than-admirable; and the flimsiness of Iachimo's first pieces of evidence suggests that, despite living in a much more patriarchal and misogynistic society, Shakespeare's original audience could have experienced a similar attitude towards Posthumus' response.

52For his first attempt, Iachimo describes Imogen's bedchamber. When Iachimo gives details of Imogen's tapestry of Cleopatra, Posthumus replies, "This is true. / And this you might have heard of here, by me, / Or by some other" (1237-39), raising the question of how common a topic of discussion Imogen's bedchamber is. Because people in Shakespeare's time did not consider bedchambers to be as private a space as we do, and many people had access to the rooms of royalty, the temperate nature of Posthumus' response indicates that it was at best semi-private. He doesn't remember mentioning it to Iachimo, but neither does he have a clear memory of not mentioning it to him, as he should have if Imogen's bedchamber were a taboo subject; and since Posthumus hypothesizes that others have the information, logically, they must either have seen it themselves or have heard about it from someone like Posthumus who was familiar with it. In either case, no description of the contents of her room could be considered proof. More details draw an even stronger response from Posthumus: "This is a thing / Which you might from relation likewise reap, / Being, as it is, much spoke of" (1250-52).

53However, when Iachimo finally produces Imogen's bracelet and lies about Imogen's actions in giving it to him, Posthumus' belief in Imogen crumbles—and when it crumbles, he descends into the extremities of hatred for women, unable to believe in the fidelity of a single woman:

Let there be no honor
Where there is beauty; truth, where semblance; love,
Where there's another man. The vows of women
Of no more bondage be to where they are made
Than they are to their virtues, which is nothing.
Oh, above measure false! (TLN 1280-85)

54The potentially farcical aspect of Posthumus' vacillation in believing that Imogen is either the best woman in the world or the worst is played up by Philario's objection that the bracelet might have been lost or stolen and Posthumus' immediate resumption of his former stance. Far from being an exceptionally mature and sensible young man, he now appears to be credulous and unable to reason logically and consistently.

55Either way, Posthumus continues to appear less than ideal when he summarily curses all women and orders Imogen's death; notwithstanding his apparent repentance later (when he still thinks that she is guilty but that he overreacted in ordering her murder), his valiant action in the battle, and his willingness to die, he still has not learned one of his lessons. His impassioned, violent outbursts continue to get the better of him, almost resulting in his truly killing Imogen. Only the fact that he forgives Iachimo rather than demanding vengeance offers hope that he is beginning to temper his passions with tolerance and patience, but at the end of the play, many critics remain unconvinced that Posthumus is, in fact, worthy of Imogen.

56Clotten

The ambiguity pertaining to Posthumus' character is reiterated in that of Clotten, who superficially represents Posthumus' antithesis. In a few scenes, he is presented strictly as a stupid, cowardly clown. The insistence on his being a fool is continual; he is called "fool" or "foolish" on twelve different occasions, and if in the phrase, "Fortune put them into my hand" (2240-41), one might infer a glancing reference to the proverb "Fortune favors fools," another is implicit. But even though he may be a fool, he is one with a sword and with power, and is therefore dangerous. However, Clotten is not simply a fool. On a few occasions, he also voices conventional early modern views about women, class difference, and nationalistic pride, raising the question of whether Shakespeare is challenging the culturally accepted beliefs he recapitulates by putting them in the mouth of a fool. On one occasion, when Clotten berates Imogen for disobeying her father and for marrying beneath her, and accuses her of disgracing the crown by attempting to "foil / The precious note of it with a base slave" (1097-98), he echoes Cymbeline's accusation that she has made his throne "a seat for baseness" (77). The fact that Cymbeline and Clotten share the same perspective on Imogen's marriage to Posthumus dangerously aligns the King with a fool, even if the original audience might be somewhat sympathetic to the notion that a princess has a duty to her kingdom to marry well. Again, in 3.1, Clotten's speeches defying the Romans display a familiar breed of proud patriotism. Many recent critics have identified these speeches with a nationalism that, while viewed as appropriate under Elizabeth I, was becoming increasingly unpopular as James I promoted a more pacifistic agenda. Still, one might imagine the possibility that large portions of the audience would cheer Clotten's rebellion against English subordination to Roman rule.

57Around 3.5, Clotten's character alters. Instead of his previous belligerence, he accepts Lucius' hand and says, moderately, "Receive it friendly, but from this time forth / I wear it as your enemy" (TLN 1907-08), which essentially represents what Cymbeline has been telling Lucius. He also serves as a more intelligent political advisor to Cymbeline than previously represented, reassuring the King that the war Cymbeline has found necessary to enter into is, at least, a popular one: "'Tis all the better; / Your valiant Britons have their wishes in it" (1915-16). He continues to behave in a similar vein, as an intelligencer if not a truly intelligent man, serving his mother as a kind of spy when the King discovers Imogen's absence and immediately discovering the information that the King desires—though Clotten does not divulge the secret. While other characters continue to call him a fool regularly, events increasingly indicate that he might present a serious danger: the threats he articulates against Pisanio, Imogen, and Posthumus target their vulnerabilities, and he moves swiftly to carry out his revenge.

58Yet Clotten descends into clownishness again when he arrives in Wales. He has no greater success at navigating in the mountains than Imogen, and he relies on the symbolic power of Posthumus' clothes and on his mother's status as he postures before Guiderius. Clotten continues to be absurd as Guiderius throws Clotten's head into a stream, to "tell the fishes he's the Queen's son, Clotten" (TLN 2442). At the end, though, Belarius' directive to his sons to bury him honorably, for "Our foe was princely, / And though you took his life as being our foe, / Yet bury him as a prince" (TLN 2563-65), shows more sincere respect due to his rank than has been demonstrated during his life. Guiderius temporizes, noting that "Thersites' body is as good as Ajax' / When neither are alive" (2567-68). As a result, even in death, he continues to partake of attributes of both the fool and the prince.

59Imogen's inability to distinguish Clotten's corpse from Posthumus' epitomizes a parallel between the two men that endures throughout the play. In fact, the two men are never onstage together, and their parts may have been doubled, or played by the same actor. Clotten notes their similarities upon arriving in the mountains near Milford Haven: "The lines of my body are as well drawn as his, no less young, more strong, not beneath him in fortunes, beyond him in the advantage of the time, above him in birth, alike conversant in general services, and more remarkable in single oppositions" (2227-31). Certainly, to take Clotten's assessment of their similarities at face value would constitute insensitive reading, but Imogen herself is fooled by the physical similarities in her famous inverted blazon, categorizing, from foot to head, the parts of what she believes to be her husband's body but which is in fact Clotten's: "I know the shape of's leg; this is his hand, / His foot Mercurial, his Martial thigh, / The brawns of Hercules, but his Jovial face -- / Murder in heaven?" (2631-34). This misrecognition on Imogen's part is the more notable since physical recognition elsewhere plays such an important part in moving the plot, with Iachimo's reference to Imogen's mole as proof of her guilt and Guiderius' similar birthmark serving as proof of his identity later.

60Beyond their physical attributes, Posthumus and Clotten share other qualities. Both are impulsive and somewhat prone to violence, as marked by Clotten's reported attack on Posthumus when Posthumus is going into exile, and as other actions attest, including Clotten's later aggression towards Guiderius as well as Posthumus' previous near duel in Orleans, his accepting the wager with Iachimo over a nearly identical cause, and his decision to order Imogen's death.

61Clotten and Posthumus express similar hostility and physical aggression toward Imogen. Clotten's desire is graphic in detail:

With that suit upon my back will I ravish her -- first kill him, and in her eyes; there shall she see my valor, which will then be a torment to her contempt. He on the ground, my speech of insultment ended on his dead body, and when my lust hath dined (which, as I say, to vex her, I will execute in the clothes that she so praised), to the court I'll knock her back, foot her home again. She hath despised me rejoicingly, and I'll be merry in my revenge. (TLN 2054-62)

62Posthumus' violence is originally more distanced and abstract. His immediate impulse is to "write against" women (1369); even the letter commanding Pisanio to kill Imogen is not specific, saying only "let thine own hands take away her life" (1698) and referring later to a "strike," suggesting Pisanio's sword. But the lack of specifics in his order cannot conceal his intent to commit violence against Imogen or its similarity to Clotten's brutality. Unlike Clotten, however, who dies without enacting any violence against Imogen, Posthumus actually strikes Imogen before he discovers her true identity.

63Both men also make and lose wagers, Posthumus over the chastity wager with Iachimo, and Clotten first at bowls and later at cards. Clotten's discussion of his gambling is interleaved between scenes playing out Posthumus' wager, effectively juxtaposing the two. The two men parallel each other in their efforts to marry Imogen; Clotten goes even farther, apparently desiring to become Posthumus, wishing to appropriate not only his wife but his clothes and his servant as well. In fact, Clotten symbolically becomes Posthumus, as Clotten's death at the hands of Guiderius arguably functions as a quasi-scapegoating for Posthumus' treasonous attempt to kill Imogen, the only known heir to the throne. The closer they come to being the same, either through Clotten's endeavors to assume Posthumus' role or through Posthumus' descent to Clotten's level of brutality, the more the value systems by which they are judged are exposed as inadequate.

64The Queen and Imogen

Unlike Posthumus and Clotten, Imogen has no foil. The only other female character of any regard, the Queen, while a powerful character within the scope of the play's politics and action, is a sketch of an evil queen/step-mother, as the similarities to the fairy tale Snow White suggest. The Queen's ambitions are superbly corrupt. She marries the king for his power, studies medicine in order to graduate to poisons, wishes to promote her son to ascend to the throne, and advises Cymbeline to stop paying tribute to Rome. Unfortunately, she is not very effective in her wickedness. Her feigned sympathy and concern for others fail to convince Imogen, Pisanio, Cornelius, or any of the courtiers; Cymbeline is the only one taken in by her. After a promising beginning as a villain, she does not even merit a dramatic on-stage death. Instead, she is taken by "a fever with the absence of her son" (TLN 2739) and dies offstage. Perhaps for an ambitious woman like the Queen, that is the worst failure of all, especially given the numerous parallels to the infamous Cleopatra. The Queen and Cleopatra both fight against conquest and marginalization by the Roman Empire, with their countries representing its northwestern and southeastern limits, respectively. Both live during the time of Augustus, seek power through advantageous romantic associations, and share an interest in poison—similarities which, in context, may point forth the ways in which women with political power are indicted as being too interested in the power of life and death, particularly through such "feminine" means as seduction and poison.

65Aside from the Queen, Imogen's maids, Helen and Dorothy, are the only women present -- or at least the only living women. Imogen's mother, the first queen, is mentioned only cursorily (as being the source of the diamond ring she leaves to Imogen and as having wrought a "curious mantle" for Arviragus (3675-76)); and Posthumus' mother appears onstage as a ghost. Other women are evoked only hypothetically, as stereotypes, such as the "jay of Italy" (1720) that Imogen is convinced has seduced Posthumus, or as legendary females—Cleopatra, Lucrece, Philomel, and Dido. Given these associations, it is as though Imogen lives in the chronicles that provide the basis for the story. Appropriately, when Posthumus believes Imogen has betrayed him, he threatens to write about her and other women: "I'll write against them, / Detest them, curse them" (TLN 1369-70), but the only alternative the play presents to women being chronicled for evil is being chronicled for good—a fate not necessarily associated with the happy endings such women deserve but with abandonment, death, mutilation, metamorphosis, or some combination of those factors. In Imogen's case, all become true, on the symbolic if not literal level.

66Despite the fact that Imogen conforms to restrictive social conventions for women regarding marital status, sexuality, and submission to her husband, she supersedes these limitations to become a fully realized character whose humanity is much more appealing than the incredible virtues of an idealized Madonna figure. Imogen is chaste, and she is naive (or begins the play that way), but Shakespeare also reveals her development into a passionate, brave, loyal, intelligent, and humorous woman.

67Imogen's growth can be seen in the difference between her romantic, artificial excesses of love at the beginning, reminiscent of the early Juliet, and the more authentic, or at least unmediated, passion we see later as she encounters pain. At the beginning, her view of love is dramatic: it is a performance which she desires to stage, perhaps not only for Posthumus' benefit but for its conformity to romantic narrative conventions. In this her desires are frustrated by Posthumus' abbreviated departure. Posthumus, preparing to leave Britain and his new wife, simply says, "Should we be taking leave / As long a term as yet we have to live, / The loathness to depart would grow. Adieu" (TLN 126-28). Imogen takes issue with Posthumus' brevity, as though only the volume of words spoken could demonstrate the size of emotion felt: "Nay, stay a little: / Were you but riding forth to air yourself, / Such parting were too petty" (129-31).

68After Posthumus' departure, Imogen reveals more of the script she had envisioned for their parting. She presses Pisanio for every detail of Posthumus' actions, dwelling on the separate incidents of the departure, Posthumus' last words, and his kissing his handkerchief and waving it. "Senseless linen, happier therein than I" (272), Imogen comments, in the full throes of romantic rhetoric. After his first few answers, whose brevity clearly disappoints Imogen, Pisanio seems to attempt to accommodate Imogen. When she demands, "And that was all?" (273), Pisanio elaborates on the symbolism of Posthumus' sailing. He concedes that he watched until Posthumus was "as little as a crow, or less," happily fulfilling Imogen's expectations (281-84), and when Imogen complains that Pisanio did not stay as long as she would have, the comparison simply illuminates how much more she would have felt. If Pisanio watched until Posthumus was the size of a crow, she would watch until Posthumus was like the point of a needle, gnat-sized, and then invisible. The boundlessness of her love is symbolized in her speech, which is also limitless. Her love, while it rings true, carries the predictable clichés of young love:

I did not take my leave of him but had
Most pretty things to say. Ere I could tell him
How I would think on him at certain hours
Such thoughts and such; or I could make him swear
The shes of Italy should not betray
Mine interest and his honor; or have charged him
At the sixth hour of morn, at noon, at midnight,
T'encounter me with orisons, for then
I am in heaven for him; or ere I could
Give him that parting kiss which I had set
Betwixt two charming words, comes in my father
And like the tyrannous breathing of the North
Shakes all our buds from growing. (TLN 294-306)

69The orthodox nature of her romantic notions is underscored by the way she lapses into summary: she had "most pretty things to say," she would tell him "such thoughts and such," and she had already scripted the "parting kiss which I had set / Betwixt two charming words" (294-304). That she is not the first to voice these thoughts, or that they were not spontaneous, does not make the emotion behind them untrue; it merely suggests that language such as this, suitable to some prose romance, shapes her expectations and is thus replicated by her.

70By the time Imogen has actually experienced their separation and Iachimo's supposed trial of her constancy, her responses are already less planned, more spontaneous, with her thoughts flying as fast as she wishes to, faster than her words can match, in an exuberance which does not measure her emotion but outstrips it:

Oh, for a horse with wings! Hearst thou, Pisanio?
He is at Milford Haven. Read, and tell me
How far 'tis thither. If one of mean affairs
May plod it in a week, why may not I
Glide thither in a day? Then, true Pisanio,
Who longst like me to see thy lord, who longst --
Oh, let me bate -- but not like me; yet longst,
But in a fainter kind. Oh, not like me,
For mine's beyond, beyond! (TLN 1516-24)

71Her insistence on the uniqueness of her position, while also typical of young love, is more endearing, not less, for being rhetorically artless, and her eagerness poignantly contrasts with the irony that Posthumus wants her to go to Milford Haven not to meet her but to kill her. Already her concept of love shows signs of growing more individual and less dramatic, but it still betrays numerous hallmarks of a romantic narrative, with the plotting of the excuse, her maid's feigned sickness, and the disguise as a franklin's housewife, all betokening another scene she is planning to perform.

72In the next scene with Imogen, where Pisanio confronts her with Posthumus' accusations, Imogen is forced to abandon her idea that love necessarily follows the plot of a romance of which she is the romantic heroine. Suddenly, new roles are required: she is the Biblical Susanna, innocent of the crimes Posthumus charges her with, and she considers acting the part of Lucrece to prove her loyalty. Imogen's ability adapt to a new reality and a new role nearly fails her in this scene, however. Instead of adopting a new explanation, such as Pisanio's accurate speculation that "It cannot be / But that my master is abused. Some villain -- / Aye, and singular in his art -- hath done you both / This cursed injury" (1801-04), Imogen clings to Iachimo's accusations that Posthumus is the victim of a predatory Roman courtesan. It is not until Pisanio literally provides her with a new role and a new identity that Imogen accepts her continued existence.

73Her willingness to forget so much of herself confirms that her unchanging love for Posthumus constitutes a central part of her identity. The rhetorical and narrative conventions of love are not necessary to love. In fact, her new disguise requires, in a way that her earlier roles do not, that she disguise her love for Posthumus. It is in this scene that Imogen relinquishes what had been the most fundamental element of her role as romantic heroine, her long and eloquent speeches, but only after she exhausts herself responding to Posthumus' accusation, running the gamut of emotions. After she finally listens to Pisanio's proposal that she "forget to be a woman" (1844), Imogen once again displays her adaptability, already assuming a masculine, laconic regard for language: "Nay, be brief. / I see into thy end, and am almost a man already" (1856-58). She has surrendered her roles as obedient daughter, infatuated lover, and princess, and now she relinquishes her femininity.

74Finally, Imogen ceases to equate talking about love with feeling love. Once she believes that Posthumus is dead, Lucius must compel Imogen (in her disguise as Fidele) to talk about her love for Posthumus. When she loses him, she loses herself and is "nothing; or, if not, nothing to be were better" (2696-97). Her words are briefer, no longer using the florid sentimentality characteristic of earlier scenes. She describes Posthumus simply: "He was a very valiant Briton, and a good" (2698). While she does imply that he was the best man in the world, she does so in fewer than eight full lines. By the time she is finally reunited with Posthumus, she is even less profligate with words, greeting him only with "Why did you throw your wedded lady from you? / Think that you are upon a rock, and now / Throw me again" (3352-54).

75After being the central protagonist throughout the drama, Imogen does fall into the background during the final scene, where the male characters' multiple revelations pile on, one after another. While some critics feel that Imogen's relative backgrounding in the final scene is reminiscent of Isabella's ambiguous silence at the end of Measure for Measure, it is possible to understand Imogen's silence as elective, and as a sign of her increasing maturity. One might equally associate her quietness with Claudio's silence in Much Ado about Nothing upon his becoming betrothed to Hero for the first time: "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I were but little happy if I could say how much." Whereas at the beginning of the play, Imogen displays the excessive language suitable to the heroine of a romance, she develops into a well-rounded character whose ability to adapt through multiple crises charms the audience, and while her final speeches are shorter and sparser, they portray her as a woman who has learned one of the central lessons of the play: that words and reality do not necessarily accord. Given the power of language to deceive, to wound, and simply to fail to express the ineffable, Imogen's silence is less surprising. Perhaps Posthumus has the right idea when he says, "I'll speak to thee in silence" (3064).