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Cymbeline

by: William Shakespeare

Act V, scene v

Yet while all the characters may be reconciled here, two significant difficulties remain for the audience. One is Posthumus' manifest unworthiness to marry the wonderful Imogen, although the playwright does allow him one good line when they embrace: "Hang there like fruit, my soul," he cries, "Till the tree die! (V.v.263-64)." Then again, no other obvious candidates for Imogen's hand present themselves, and Shakespeare is famous for marrying his heroines off to callow or unimpressive men, so Posthumus is in good company. Less forgivable is Cymbeline's peculiar decision, after a bloody battle in which his army triumphed, to restore the payment of tribute to Rome. This has the effect of making all the political action of the play seem a little ridiculous, and one has the feeling that Shakespeare is laughing behind his hand--whether at his characters or at the audience, it is hard to say.