Cymbeline

Shakespeare: the funny bits

Britain. Cymbeline’s palace

Cym. My dearest daughter Imogen, I order you to marry your dastardly half-brother Cloten.
Imo. Eww.
Cym. He’s only my new Queen’s kid from her former marriage. It’s not like you two had baths together when you were kids.
Imo. EWWWWW.
Cym. And anyway I’m King, so your boyfriend Posthumus is banished. If he stays around here he’ll live up to his name, ha ha ha.
Imo. [groans] Dad joke.
Cym. Daughters! Who’d have ’em! It’s so annoying that someone stole those two sons of mine twenty years ago. Oh well.

Rome. Philario’s house

Enter Posthumus and Iachimo.

Post. I’m so in love with Imogen, the best girl in the world. We have a deeply romantic and trusting relationship with each other. It’s the real thing: True Love.
Iach.
Ha, she wouldn’t last ten seconds in Italy. In fact, ten thousand ducats says I can get her into the sack.
Post. You’re on.

Britain. Cymbeline’s palace.

Enter the Queen, Cornelius and Pisanio

Cor. [aside] See that box the queen has? The potion in it makes people seem like they’re completely dead for a while, but then they wake up. It’s totally amazing and like nothing you’ve seen in any play ever before.

[The Queen drops the box. Pisanio takes it up.

Queen. Oh, silly me, I dropped my box of the best medicine ever. Well, finders keepers. Enjoy!

The palace. Enter Imogen and Iachimo

Iach. Hey, pretty lady. Root me.
Imo.
No thanks.
Iach.
[aside] Ouch! [to Imogen] In that case, please accept this gift of a man-sized trunk full of… some stuff.
Imo. Oh, goody, presents. Have it sent to my room where I can forget all about it.

Imogen’s bedchamber in Cymbeline’s palace. A man-size trunk in one corner.

Imo. So sleepy! ‘Night!

[She sleeps. Iachimo comes from the trunk and starts taking notes.

Iach. Ok, arras, windows, bed, hmm, what’s that?
[Taking off her bracelet.
Iach.
Sweet.

[Exit into the trunk.

Rome. Enter Posthumus and Iachimo.

Iach. About that girlfriend of yours. Nice Twilight poster she’s got in her bedroom.
Post.
Yeah, chicks love that stuff. Women, huh.
Iach.
Just above the water feature with the spinning ball thing.
Post.
They’re all the rage this year.
Iach.
And I love the blue and white stained glass window.
Post.
Which you can see from outside, der.
Iach.
It really sets off the mole on her boob.
Post.
Servant’s gossip. Wait, what?
Iach.
Her boob.
Post.
ARGH MANPAIN.

Britain. Cymbeline’s palace.

Enter Pisano holding a letter and the Queen’s box, and Imogen.

Pis. You’d better get out of here. Dress up like a man, and take this magic potion in case you get seasick or something.

Wales. A mountainous country with a cave.

Enter from the cave Belarius, Guiderius and Arviragus.

Bel. Ah, free life in the wilderness. What could be better?
Arv.
Man, this blows.
Gui.
Place is a dump.
Bel.
How noble these two boys are. It must be because they are Cymbeline’s sons who I stole from his palace twenty years ago. Hope you’ve all been paying attention.

Enter Imogen, in boy’s clothes.

Imo. Hi, I’m starved and half dead. Please don’t kill me.

[She sits on a log. Arviragus and Guiderius sit on either side of her.

Arv. Now that I think about it, the country’s got a lot to recommend it.
Gui.
Yeah.
Imo.
Actually… I still feel pretty ordinary. And there’s something about the way you guys are looking at me which creeps me out. I think I’ll take some of this magic potion and have a lie down.

Wales. Near the cave of Belarius

Enter Cloten, dressed in Posthumus’ clothes

Clo. I’m going to find that Posthumus and chop off his head. Yeah, I said it. Wearing his clothes, too. That’ll show him.

Wales. Before the cave of Belarius.

Enter Guiderius with Cloten’s head.

Gui. Hey guys! Look what I found.
Clot.
[aside] That went well.

Enter Arviragus with Imogen as dead, bearing her in his arms.

Arv. Hey guys! Look what I found.
Bel.
Well, there goes the rest of my day.

[They strew flowers and lay Cloten and Imogen on them. Exeunt all but Imogen.]

Imo. [Awaking] Oh, man. What did I do last night? [Seeing the body.
These flow’rs are like the pleasures of the world;
This bloody man, the care on’t. [Actually notices the body this time.
ZOMG DEAD HUSBAND! [Falls fainting on the body.

Enter Lucius, Captains and a Soothsayer, bickering

Luc. All I’m saying is, I mean, I’m a general of the Roman fucking Empire, and I’m not about to be confined to a subplot by a bunch of woad-faced Brits.
Cap.
Whoah, look at that, a headless corpse with a boy laying on top of it.
Luc.
You see! That’s what I’ve been saying! These people are savages! But he’s hot, so he can come and work for me.
Imo.
Huh, wha? Oh, ok.

Britain. A field of battle between the British and Roman camps.

Enter Lucius, Iachimo and the Roman army at one door, and the British army at another, Posthumus following like a poor soldier.

Posthumus vanquisheth and disarmeth Iachimo, and then leaves him.

The battle continues; the Britains fly; Cymbeline is taken. Then enter to his rescue Belarius, Guiderius and Arvigarus.

Another part of the field. Enter Posthumus and a Britain Lord.

Lord. What just happened?
Post.
It was awesome, this old guy and two kids showed up out of nowhere and slaughtered the Romans, you should have been there. Oh wait, that’s right, you were there. Running away.
Lord.
Well, really.
Post.
Whatever, I’m going to suddenly switch sides for no real reason.

Britain. A prison.

Posthumus is thrown into a cell by two Gaolers.

Post. Sucks to be me. [Sleeps.

Solemn Music. Enter, as in an apparition, Posthumus’ Mum and Dad, his dead brothers, an army of striding hammers with red and black handles, Hughie, Ralph the Bong, a large black obelisk and two scary little girls. Finally, Jupiter descends, riding an eagle and wearing a pair of Ray-Bans.

Jup. Kid, relax. It’s all gonna be alright.

[Ascends.

Post. [Waking] What a koo-koo dream.

Re-enter Gaoler.

Gao. Wakey, wakey, hands off snakey, it’s hanging time.

Enter a Messenger.

Mess. Hold your horses, the King wants him at the dénouement.
Gao.
Dénouement? What’s a dénouement?
Mess.
Do you work for the King, or what?
Gao.
Yes.
Mess.
Dénouement to let me take him to the King!

Cymbeline’s palace.

Enter just about everyone.

Cym. Ok, if I’m ever going to understand all this, you’ll have to tell me the whole story over again.
Omnes.
Here goes. “The Scene, Britain. Cymbeline’s Palace. Cym. My dearest daughter Imogen, I order you to marry your dastardly half-brother Cloten…”
[…]
Omnes
“…honestly.”
Cym.
So, let’s see. The Queen was giving me drugs to make me think that marrying her son to my daughter was OK, which is actually pretty icky now that I think about it. But she’s dead now, and so’s Cloten, who I never really got on with. And that page is actually Imogen, and those two bumpkins who have been making eyes at him, I mean her, are my lost sons. That’s kind of icky, too. But Posthumus is alive, and he’s been her husband all along. Even though he just punched her in the face while you were explaining it all.
Pis.
That’s about it.
Cym.
There really is a lot of weird brother-sister stuff in this story. Don’t you think?
Pis.
I guess so, now that you mention it.
Cym.
Maybe it’s meant to be some sort of Cymbelism.
Imo.
God, Dad, honestly.

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2 responses to “Cymbeline

  1. Man, this one’s beggin’ to be an opera. I had no idea.

    And you must hang for the dénouement pun.

  2. Yes! Or Space Opera. It’s got as much brother-sister weirdness as the original Star Wars trilogy.

    Anticipating Pericles in woad, I was really surprised by how enjoyable Cymbeline is to read, which is why I didn’t just post the rude bit but got sucked into parodying the whole play.

    In defence of my dreadful pun I cite Johnson’s comment on Shakespeare – that “a quibble was to him the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content to lose it.”

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