by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, scenes iii-iv; Act V, scenes i-iv

After the battle, with Posthumus having punished himself (and rightly so, one feels) by allowing himself to be taken prisoner, we are treated to what may be the most badly written scene in all of Shakespeare: the appearance of Jupiter over the sleeping Posthumus. This clumsy, forced, and absurd scene serves no apparent plot function, and the ghosts of Posthumus's ancestors deliver their speeches in a ridiculous rhyming doggerel. Indeed, the style of verse here is so bad that a number of critics have used this scene as evidence for their contention that Shakespeare did not actually author Cymbeline on his own, but that portions of it were penned by inferior collaborators. The scene's wretched qualities are only slightly redeemed by the appearance of the mordant jailer, who, coming for the condemned man the next morning, exhibits a rather delightful gallows humor. He is an excellent minor character; it is unfortunate that he must share a scene with the preposterous Jupiter.

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