Summer Shakespeare III

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2023: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 14 - Aug. 16

June 14:
Troilus and Cressida

June 21:
Titus Andronicus

June 28:
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Fantasy and Allegory

July 5

July 12:
King John
Outlying Histories

July 19:
Timon of Athens

July 26:
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Villainy and Purity

Aug 2:
Prejudice and Metaphor

August 9:
King Henry VIII
Contemporary Politics

August 16:
Pastoral and Romance


We end with one of Shakespeare’s more peculiar romances. It has perhaps the most improbable sequence of events of any Shakespeare play, including even The Comedy of Errors and Pericles. Lost children are found after twenty years; those thought dead turn out to be alive; complex disasters all turn out to have been subtly changed by connivance or mere happenstance, and everything turns out well for the good guys and badly for the bad guys (which, as Oscar Wilde said, is what “fiction” means.)

At the same time, it is also of a piece with the more political dramas (Richard II, Macbeth, and most of the Henry plays). To some measure it is designed to tie the current monarch (James I) in to both the British and Roman forebears in England.

It is also by turns introspective and wonderfully lyrical. There are pieces of the play that rise to some beautiful language, even as the plot is taking a yet more improbable turn. Take it as it comes; don’t be too fretful about keeping in touch with plausibility. Many have found that it is, despite all expectations, one of their favorites in the Shakespeare corpus.

Things to consider while reading Cymbeline

What (if anything) can you extract from its political discourse?

Shakespeare is noted for the depth and complexity of his greatest characters. Here almost everyone is a type. How does that affect the play? Does it undercut it or push us in another direction?

Cymbeline and what has come before

Shakespeare’s Sources

Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)

Symmetries in the play

Problems in the play