In what ways are the characters of Posthumus and Cloten aligned in Cymbeline, particularly in their misogyny?

In Cymbeline, Posthumus and Cloten align in their view of women as objects to be controlled by men. Both wish to control Imogen's behavior and threaten violence when she goes (or appears to go) against those wishes.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While Posthumus and Cloten seem like opposites, they are united in their attitudes towards women. Both essentially see women more as objects than as human beings.

Cloten sees Imogen as more a means to a political end. He wants to marry her for her money and social position—after all, whoever...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

While Posthumus and Cloten seem like opposites, they are united in their attitudes towards women. Both essentially see women more as objects than as human beings.

Cloten sees Imogen as more a means to a political end. He wants to marry her for her money and social position—after all, whoever marries Imogen will inherit Cymbeline's crown. In act 2, scene 2, he evokes the patriarchal view of women when he claims she should marry him to go in accordance with her father's wishes ("You sin against / Obedience, which you owe your father"), but this does not work, frustrating him. When planning to bribe one of Imogen's ladies in waiting with money, he compares Imogen to a deer, suggesting that he sees her the way a hunter views their prey. Cloten's association of the pursuit of Imogen with violence goes even further in act 4, scene 1, where he announces his intention to rape her if she will not comply with his wishes.

Imogen tells Cloten that he is not anywhere near Posthumus's equal, but even Posthumus seems ill-suited for such praise. For all of his protestations of love, he is quick to bet on Imogen's chastity with Iachimo and during act 2, scene 4 when Iachimo deceives him into believing he has seduced his wife. Posthumus quickly goes into a rage-filled rant against both Imogen and all women:

... Let there be no honour
Where there is beauty; truth, where semblance; love,
Where there's another man: the vows of women
Of no more bondage be, to where they are made,
Than they are to their virtues; which is nothing.
O, above measure false!

After this, he tries to have Imogen killed. Much like Cloten's rape plan, this is an example of a man using violence to punish a woman. However, this is also the point where the two characters diverge regarding their misogynistic attitudes.

As similar as Cloten and Posthumus are in the first parts of the play, it must be noted that Posthumus ultimately changes. When he believes Imogen has been killed, he experiences great remorse and hopes to be killed after the battle with the Romans by putting himself among the Roman prisoners of war. While critics remain divided as to whether or not Posthumus's redemption is credible (the question of the so-called hero's worthiness of the heroine is a common one when discussing most of Shakespeare's problem plays and romances), it does provide the central difference between his character and Cloten's, since Cloten dies unrepentant.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on