Cymbeline: Novel Summary: Act 1 Scene 3

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Summary
The First Lord advises Cloten to change his shirt, which smells as a result of his fighting with Posthumus, though the Lord, in an attempt to flatter Cloten, tries unconvincingly to suggest that it is the air outside Cloten's shirt that is unwholesome. Cloten only sees the need to change his shirt if it were bloody, and asks if Posthumus is hurt. The Second Lord reveals in an aside to the audience that he is not, but the First Lord tries to flatter Cloten by saying it would be remarkable if Posthumus were not hurt. The Second Lord continues to address the audience in asides revealing Cloten's cowardice and Posthumus's bravery in the fight. Cloten claims he wishes the onlookers had not parted them, and the Second Lord says in an aside that he wishes Posthumus had killed Cloten.
Cloten is astonished that Imogen could prefer Posthumus to himself. The First lord replies that her beauty exceeds her intelligence.
Analysis
The Second Lord echoes Imogen's wish in the previous scene that Posthumus had killed Cloten. This sets up an expectation that Cloten may indeed be disposed of. The contrast between the First Lord's flattering remarks to Cloten and the Second Lord's contempt for him, expressed in asides to the audience, reveal the hypocrisy and underlying discontent at court, where people say one thing but think another. Such disunity in Shakespeare indicates an unsustainable situation, since if truth is to prevail, that which is false must be destroyed.
Cloten's vanity and lack of self-knowledge are plain in this, our first sight of him. Cloten speaks in prose, revealing his unrefined nature, whereas Imogen and Posthumus address each other in blank verse, as befits their more refined characters. Cloten also smells bad, which in Shakespeare is a sure sign of an uncivilized nature.

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