The Career of Cymbeline's Manacle
(draft version)

Valerie Wayne



     1. In 1602 at an entertainment performed before Queen Elizabeth at Harefield, the home of Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and his wife Alice, Countess of Derby, at least 34 women participated in a lottery in which they received trinkets from a mariner, who claimed to have just arrived from a small merchant vessel loaded with jewels and other booty. Beginning the event with a song to Cynthia, i.e. Elizabeth, the mariner explains that in his travels he has had the good fortune "to light upon these few Trifles" which he has carried about until he could meet with a fit company on which to bestow them. He invites the ladies, most of whom are Elizabeth's maids of honor, to try their luck by drawing one of the lots, each of which is identified by a poetic couplet written by Sir John Davies.
1 The lottery was rigged to ensure that the queen received a jewel of the wheel of fortune, and at least some other participants also drew lots "designed to reflect some trait for which the recipient was noted."2 Robert Krueger notes, for example, that Lady Anne Clifford received a lace with the couplet evoking her strictness and restraint:

Give hir the lace thatt loves to be straite laced;
Soe fortunes little gifte is aptly placed.
3

It is difficult to know how many other of the gifts were as "aptly placed," but the mother of the maids received a scarf to "bind Cupid" so that he might ask her leave before he shot his arrow, which seems fitting for someone with her supervisory role over Elizabeth's servingwomen.4 Many of the gifts proffered in this "lucky dip" came with couplets calling attention to the ways in which the object could signify or become a form of constraint. Gifts usually entail some encumbrances or obligations, as the work of Marcel Mauss in The Gift has amply demonstrated, but rather than conceal this threat, the couplets foreground it. Lady Kildare received "fortunes girdle" in the form of a belt with the suggestion that she would have more liberty without it:

By fortunes girdle happie may you bee,
Yett they thatt ar lesse happie ar more Free. (Krueger, ed., p. 211)

Mary Radcliffe, the keeper of the Queen's jewels from 1587 to the end of Elizabeth's reign,5 received a pair of bracelets in this lottery:

Ladye, your handes ar fallen into a snare,
For Cupids manacles your braclettes ar. (Krueger, ed., p. 213)

Mistress Radcliffe had herself been jokingly presented by her father as a New Year's gift to the Queen in 1561, but by 1602 she was the last remaining "old maid" at court, known for some time as the queen's "merry guardian" and a favorite who shared her sovereign's suspicions about marriage.6 She is said to have "told a Lord, whose conversation and discourse she did not like, that his witte was like a custard, nothing good in it but the soppe, and when that was eaten you might through away the rest."7 Violet Wilson says that when the queen nearly accepted the proposal of the Duke of Alençon, Mistress Radcliffe joined with the other maids in discouraging her from the match and "requoted Elizabeth's own arguments on the superiority of virginity" to her (136). Radcliffe was, therefore, especially at this point in her life, not at all likely to have her hands ensnared in "Cupid's manacles" by her own consent. Perhaps that is the joke behind the gift of bracelets to this recipient: only by the hand of "fortune," itself manipulated through decidedly human intervention, would Radcliffe find her own hands constrained by Cupid.

     2. The association in Davies' couplet between a bracelet and a manacle occurs in Cymbeline but does not appear earlier in Shakespeare's writings. Rings often function as signs of an affective or marital bond in Shakespeare, but bracelets appear more rarely in any connection, occuring only in a catalogue of finery in The Shrew (4.3.58); as "bracelets of . . . hair" in A Midsummer Night's Dream, one of many love tokens that Lysander has given to Hermia (1.1.33); as the previously vended contents of Autolycus' pack in The Winter's Tale (4.4.587); and, more pertinently, as "iron bracelets" or shackles on Palamon in Two Noble Kinsmen (2.6.8).8 Manacles appear in 2 Henry IV, Measure for Measure, Coriolanus, and The Tempest, in all instances serving as agents of constraint and imprisonment.9 Not until Cymbeline does Shakespeare associate a bracelet with a manacle when Posthumus gives the object to Innogen, saying,

It is a manacle of love, I'll place it
Upon this fairest prisoner.
10

Davies' couplet may have suggested the connection, since it was first published in Francis Davison's miscellany, Poetical Rhapsody, in 1608, which was near the time that Shakespeare was probably writing this play. Davies was by then well known as the author of epigrams and particularly of Nosce Teipsum, which he dedicated to Elizabeth. But Shakespeare might easily have made the connection himself given the structural similarity between bracelets and shackles. The objects in Davies' and Shakespeare's texts are valued less by their price on the open market than by the form in which they are exchanged. The items in the entertainment, dispersed by a ceremonial agent of fortune deploying Petrarchan imagery to characterize their effects, each acquired an aura that elevated them beyond the Mariner's initial reference to them as a "few Trifles." Through Posthumus' exchange of a bracelet with Innogen's ring in Shakespeare's play, "trifles" as he calls them (1.1.21), both stage properties take on a significance far in excess of their market value. Just as Bassanio remarks about the ring he reluctantly gives to Portia dressed as the lawyer's clerk, "there's more depends on this than on the value" (4.2.430). The value of the manacle in Cymbeline fluctuates widely as it passes through the hands of three characters in that play, ranging from a token of Posthumus' affection but also his inferior class position and his desire to enclave Innogen's sexuality in marriage, to a sign of her supposed sexual availability, by which means it becomes associated with the woman's part and all the attendant evils that Posthumus locates therein.

     3. In the introductory essay to his edited collection called The Social Life of Things, Arjun Appadurai proposes that "economic exchange creates value" and that focusing on the things that are exchanged rather than the forms or functions of exchanges (as Marxist critics have traditionally done) makes visible the political linkages between exchange and value.11 Drawing on the insights of Georg Simmel, Appadurai explores the conditions under which objects circulate in different regimes of value in space and time. His approach "justifies the conceit that commodities, like persons, have social lives" (3) and that "specific things, as they move through different hands, contexts, and uses" may be regarded as having life histories (34). One can trace the "career" or life history of a thing by noting its participation in various exchanges and its consequent shifts in value. Appadurai is especially interested in the phases and contexts during which things meet the requirement of commodity candidacy, since they may move into and out of the commodity state at different times in their careers.12 Luxury goods in particular have a special "register" of consumption that sets them off from other objects. These goods often exhibit a "semiotic virtuosity, that is, the capacity to signal fairly complex social messages" and offer "a high degree of linkage of their consumption to body, person, and personality" (38). As I trace the careers of the manacle, its companion, Innogen's ring, and the bloody cloth, I will use Appadurai's terms to explore the changes in value and signification that these objects take on in the course of the play, the implications of their valuation for our understanding of those who exchange them, and hence their apt qualifications to advertise and commodify the play which provides them with their histories.

     4. The manacle and the ring first appear in a gift exchange between Posthumus and Innogen. Having received from Innogen a ring of some worth -- "This diamond was my mother's. Take it, heart" (1.1.113) after she has termed Posthumus a "jewel" (1.1.92) -- he exhibits what Appadurai calls the "calculative dimension" of exchange (13) when he reciprocates by giving her his bracelet:

. . . and sweetest, fairest,
As I my poor self did exchange for you
To your so infinite loss, so in our trifles
I still win of you. For my sake wear this.
          He gives her a bracelet
It is a manacle of love, I'll place it
Upon this fairest prisoner. (1.1.119-24)

The marital exchange of persons is symbolized by an exchange of "trifles." Posthumus' speech calls attention to how the differential values of these luxury goods reflect the donors' differences in rank. A "manacle" was "a fetter for the hand" (OED sb. 1) and derived from manus, Latin for "hand." In early modern marriages, the "handfast" constituted a promise of marriage in a spousal that could range in meaning from what we now call an engagement to a formal marriage ceremony. One gave one's hand in marriage. The ring and the manacle become what Appadurai calls "incarnated signs" (38) of the marital bond between this husband and wife.

     5. Posthumus does not expect to receive the gift of Innogen's ring and may even register surprise at his good fortune, but by way of response he calls attention to and then symbolizes the inadequacies of his own birth through the bracelet. The inequality in their persons and the initial value of the commodities they exchange may partly explain his desire to compensate for his lower birth by fettering Innogen's hand through marriage. Innogen is therefore doubly imprisoned as the play begins, first by a father who rates birth over merit ("Thou took'st a beggar, wouldst have made my throne / A seat for baseness," 1.1.142-43) and then by a husband who tries to make up for his lack of birth and his banishment by constraining his wife. The clandestine marriage that occurred before the play began13 was not a typical marital exchange of a woman among men because Innogen's father did not "give" her to Posthumus; on the contrary, when she tried to give herself, Cymbeline took her back again. But this gift exchange of things as incarnated signs eventually enables another exchange of Innogen among other men, and it is that exchange that the play foregrounds as a crucial problem. Appadurai refers to a category called "enclaved commodities, objects whose commodity potential is carefully hedged" (24): through the early gift exchange, the manacle becomes a visual sign of the enclavement of Innogen's sexuality in the play. It marks containment of the woman's part. The very object that Posthumus intended as a means to control his wife's sexuality then later becomes a means for her being put into circulation. Appadurai provides a larger context for this development: "the politics of enclaving, far from being a guarantor of systemic stability, may constitute the Trojan horse of change" (26).

     6. This shift is enabled by what, in Appadurai's terms, is the play's first "tournament of value" (21), when Posthumus displays his pride in Innogen and his conviction that her sexuality is fully enclaved. He is lured into a wager by the conjunction that Iachimo makes between her value and the diamond ring: "If she went before others I have seen, as that diamond of yours outlustres many I have beheld, I could not but believe she excelled many: but I have not seen the most precious diamond that is, nor you the lady" (1.4.68-72). The conflation of woman and ring becomes a means of commodifying the woman. Posthumus at first refuses this conflation: "You are mistaken. The one may be sold or given, or if there were wealth enough for the purchase or merit for the gift. The other is not a thing for sale, and only the gift of the gods" (1.4.78-81). But Iachimo reasserts it: "You may wear her in title yours: but you know, strange fowl light upon neighbouring ponds. Your ring may be stolen too; so your brace of unprizable estimations, the one is but frail, and the other casual" (1.4.84-87). Note in this phrasing the trace of the bracelet, here counterpoised with the ring: Innogen is constructed as and through Posthumus' "brace of unprizable estimations," with "brace" evoking a coat of arms and a buckle of a girdle or belt, both current meanings at the time (OED, sb. 2, I and II). Innogen's enclavement through the bracelet was supposed to effect what Igor Kopytoff calls "terminal commoditization, in which further exchange is precluded by fiat,"14 so that she becomes literally priceless. Yet Posthumus fails to maintain her pricelessness in the face of Iachimo's comparisons with the ring. Posthumus' "brace of unprizable estimations" becomes the means by which she is accorded a price and put into circulation.

     7. This tournament of value also has some similarities to Baudrillard's account of an auction, whose essential function "is the institution of a community of the privileged who define themselves as such by agonistic speculation upon a restricted corpus of signs" (Appadurai 21). The wager in which these men in Rome participate permits them to exercise the privilege of their gender by debasing women into sexual signs of questionable worth. Innogen is weighed here not only in relation to the ring, but to the women of France and Italy, who are defended by the Frenchman and the Italian Iachimo as being at least equal to her value, although that comparison is another way of demeaning her worth because she then becomes no better than they. This is a distinctively male tournament of value and a contest among nations, a kind of European olympics of female worth and attemptability given the added presence of a Spaniard and a Dutchman in the scene. When Iachimo wagers ten thousand ducats against Posthumus' ring, Italian currency against British jewelry, Posthumus says he prefers to bet gold against gold; but he is goaded into "lending" his diamond as part of the wager. Iachimo then confirms its terms: "If I bring you no sufficient testimony that I have enjoyed the dearest bodily part of your mistress, my ten thousand ducats are yours, so is your diamond too" (1.4.143-46). The manacle becomes testimony of and signifies that "dearest bodily part."

     8. To provide such proof, Iachimo engages in a theft of the commodity that symbolizes the enclavement of Innogen's sexuality. Appadurai describes commodities as having paths and diversions, and a diversion "may sometimes involve the calculated and 'interested' removal of things from an enclaved zone to one where exchange is less confined and more profitable. . . . [W]hereas enclaving seeks to protect certain things from commoditization, diversion frequently is aimed at drawing protected things into the zone of commoditization" (25-26). Innogen's sexuality, her "woman's part" (2.4.174), is that protected "thing" which is staged through the property of the manacle. Iachimo's remark as he is recounting his actions at the end of the play identifies the generative locus of this plot: "Your daughter's chastity--there it begins" (5.4.179). Theft, as Appadurai describes it, is "the humblest form of diversion of commodities from preordained paths" (26). When Iachimo comes out of the trunk, he notes the adornment of Innogen's room and the objects present in it, he takes the manacle ("Come off, come off," 2.2.33), and he observes the mole on her breast. He does not know the history of the manacle, so he thinks the mole will be the "secret / Will force him think I have picked the lock, and ta'en / The treasure of her honour" (2.2.40-42). But it is by taking the manacle, rather than seeing the mole, that he is diverting the sign of Innogen's sexuality from the enclaved path of marriage.

     9. The mole, or rather its counterpart, was the more important object in Shakespeare's sources. In the ninth book, second day in Boccaccio's Decameron, merchants wager on a wife's fidelity and one of them conceals himself in a trunk to spy on her while she sleeps. The objects in her room are described in the English translation of 1620 as a "small wart upon her left pappe," a ring, a purse, a light robe of silk, and a "girdle," a belt worn around the waist.15 In Frederyke of Jennen, the objects are a purse made of pearls and costly stones worth 84 ducats, a "gyrdle of fyne golde set with costly perles and stoones, that was worth CCCC ducates," a ring "with a point of diamond, that was worth 1 ducates," and a black wart on her left arm (Nosworthy, ed., 196). The girdle becomes the manacle in Cymbeline, retaining its associations with something that constricts the body. Those girdles on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum from the early modern and earlier periods are made of metal, sometimes enamelled, and were to be hung around the hips, a connection with the lower body that is fully appropriate to Shakespeare's play. They are in effect large, flexible bracelets made of links, as distinct from bangles, which are inflexible circles or ovals. Reference to a girdle does come into Cymbeline when Cloten says to Caius Lucius following Britain's refusal to pay tribute to Caesar, "if you seek us afterwards in other terms, you shall find us in our salt-water girdle: if you beat us out of it, it is yours" (3.1.80-81), suggesting that the ocean itself is a defensive belt encircling the island. Thomas Dekker makes a similar reference to England wearing a girdle of waves in The Whore of Babylon of 1606.16 Both the salt-water girdle and the manacle protect property from invasion, and Linda Woodbridge has emphasized how effectively the play presents a woman's body as a metaphor for the nation confronted with a similar threat.17

     10. The description of objects from the wife's bedroom in the sources by Iachimo's counterpart has the effect of unsettling the husband in each narrative, but he remains unconvinced by them when they are described because, as Boccaccio's character says and Frederyke of Jennen's implies, "this may be gotten, by corrupting some servant of mine" or by some other means than sleeping with his wife (Bullough 8:56). It is the far less erotic wart in each story that convinces the husband, just as Iachimo expects the mole will do for Posthumus. When he first sees the mole, Iachimo says,

                                   Here's a voucher
Stronger than ever law could make; this secret
Will force him think I have picked the lock, and ta'en
The treasure of her honour. (2.2.39-42)

But the mole is not as compelling a form of evidence in a dramatic context because it is not highly visible or portable, and the noncorporeal objects in the stories have not been exchanged between the married pair as they are in the play, so they have not come to signify their social relations. When Posthumus hears Iachimo describe the bedroom, he remains unpersuaded for the same reasons as the husbands in the sources. When he sees the manacle, he loses his trust and gives Iachimo the ring. Then he retracts it at Philario's urging but returns the ring again after Iachimo swears, "By Jupiter, I had it from her arm" (2.4.121). The mole serves as additional confirmation-"If you seek / For further satisfying, under her breast--/ Worthy the pressing--lies a mole" (2.4.133-35), but Iachimo has already won the ring and the wager when he mentions it.

     11. This second tournament of value is therefore more easily won than Iachimo could have anticipated, because he is unaware of the career of the manacle. An exceptionally lucky villain, like Iago, who says more than he could possibly know, he creates a fictional scene of a gift exchange between himself and Innogen while he is displaying the manacle that undoes the previous exchange between her and Posthumus:

She stripped it from her arm. I see her yet.
Her pretty action did outsell her gift,
And yet enriched it too. She gave it me,
And said she prized it once. (2.4.101-4)

Here the act of giving is accorded even more value than the commodity itself, and that act simultaneously increases its value in Iachimo's eyes. There could be few more eloquent accounts of how exchange creates value than this one--"Her pretty action did outsell her gift, / And yet enriched it too"--and it is this fictional exchange that prompts Posthumus to give over the ring. The theft of the manacle diverts it and the ring from their previous paths and debases the value of both when they come into Iachimo's possession. Having been promoted from their status as trifles to signifiers of the marital and sexual bond, they then become trophies of Iachimo's conquest over another man through his presumed sexual conquest of a woman. The sign of Innogen's sexuality has been passed between men outside of the path that is socially prescribed for women, and Posthumus completes the diversion and consequent devaluation by giving Iachimo the ring.

     12. The two commodities even become conflated through shifting pronoun references in a speech by Posthumus, where "it" at first applies unambiguously to the manacle and then might refer either to that object or to the ring:

Hark you, he swears, by Jupiter he swears.
'Tis true, nay, keep the ring, tis true. I am sure
She would not lose it. Her attendants are
All sworn and honourable. They induced to steal it?
And by a stranger? No, he hath enjoy'd her.
The cognizance of her incontinency
Is this: she hath bought the name of whore thus dearly.
          He gives Giacomo his ring
There, take thy hire, and all the fiends of hell
Divide themselves between you! (2.4.122-130)

Which is the "cognizance of her incontinency" in this passage, the manacle which is the most immediate referent for "it" because it was the only object her attendants might have stolen, or the ring that Posthumus holds in his hand and is about to give to Iachimo in an exchange among men that purchases for Innogen the name of whore? I agree with Roger Warren that "thus dearly" applies specifically to the value of the ring (n. to 2.4.128). When Posthumus hands this valuable sign of Innogen's maternal lineage to Iachimo, he fully undoes the marital gift exchange by placing that object into circulation along with the bracelet. But I am not as sure as Warren that "The cognizance of her incontinency / Is this" refers unambiguously to the ring as the token of her infidelity18: it applies equally well to the manacle discussed in the immediately preceding lines. Posthumus might even have both objects in his hands at once, so that the referent is dramatically ambiguous. Both the manacle as a sign of Innogen's enclaved sexuality and the ring as a confirmation of her maternal lineage have become contaminated through this final exchange, because both confirm and "purchase" women's illicit circulation. The word "contaminated" is Kopytoff's: he applies it to objects having a purely aesthetic or scientific value which are then made to circulate in a monetized commodity-sphere (78). Posthumus makes a comparable reference to Innogen's showing "Another stain as big as hell can hold" (2.4.140) when he mimics Iachimo's language in discussing the mole.

     13. Once Posthumus makes this leap, it is but a short step to his conviction that "We are all bastards, / And that most venerable man, which I / Did call my father was I know not where / When I was stamped" (2.4.154-57). Posthumus' own identity is fractured by his errant conclusion about women, because he comes to believe he has no identifiable father, no legitimate name, and no certain country of origin. Since the structures of kinship and nation depend upon women's fidelity, Posthumus' doubts expose men's fragile dependence in patriarchy on the disposition of women's sexuality and show that the threat to women's physical bodies posed through seduction and rape can also become a threat to personal and national identity, especially when the heir to the throne is a woman. Posthumus' father, Sicilius, fought against the Romans and received the title of Leonatus from Tenantius, a British king, after his success in battle; his two brothers died with swords in their hands. Posthumus' status as a gentleman was therefore won through physical combat, and although the First Gentleman who reports his lineage "cannot delve him to the root" (1.1.28), what class position he has was won by his father's meritorious actions, not by his birth. The play poses the problem of Posthumus' class in relation to Innogen in its very first lines; then it returns to the issue of his origin at the very end with the soothsayer's explanation of the prophecy. Once Posthumus rejects the possibility of women's fidelity, he literally does not know who he is, and his absence for two acts that is sometimes lamented by critics is a dramatization of his status as a non-person on the stage and in the text. When he returns to Britain with the Romans, he fights first for Britain and then presents himself as a Roman so he will be taken and executed. His frequent changes in costume are a legacy of his lost identity and show how malleable he remains in his subject positions, though not in his loyalties. The play's resolution depends on establishing the relation between Posthumus' origin, Britain's fortunes, and peace and plenty among the nations.

     14. The class problems posed by the marriage are intensified by Innogen's position as heir to the throne. Cymbeline's objection that she "took'st a beggar, wouldst have made my throne / A seat for baseness" (1.1.142-43) contradicts the observations of the First Gentleman made twice in the earlier scene that Posthumus is a gentleman (1.1.7, 1.1.34). Yet both agree that the problems of this marriage are a function of class. (Thomas D'Urfey's 1682 adaptation of Cymbeline is usually referred to by its first title, The Injured Princess, but one of its alternate titles was The Unequal Match.19) Innogen herself anticipates the solution to the problem when she meets Guiderius and Arviragus and hears them refer to her as a brother:

          Would it had been so that they
Had been my father's sons, then had my price
Been less, and more equal ballasting
To thee, Posthumus. (3.6.73-76)

Innogen wishes herself worth "less" so that she can be more equal to Posthumus, and as if in response to her wish, events in the play repeatedly demote her in status. From heir to the throne to appearance in "A riding-suit no costlier than would fit / A franklin's housewife" (3.2.76-77) and then to a male page for a Roman general, changing, as Pisanio says, "Command into obedience" (3.4.156), Innogen finally loses her claim to the kingdom at the very end. Yet she places little value on social position or even royal inheritance, and throughout the play she seems remarkably uninterested in exercising any kind of influence over the kingdom. In her speech on Britain, she shows a readiness to leave the country (3.4.137-41). Her loss of the throne is mentioned by Cymbeline almost as an afterthought (5.4.373-74). However resilient Innogen may be when under duress and however attractive she appears in performance, her desires in this play are expressed primarily toward her husband, which is probably why the Victorians liked her so much. To her the manacle is no form of constraint: she calls it her "jewel" when she cannot find it after it is stolen (2.4.138), adding, "'Shrew me / If I would lose it for a revenue / Of any king's in Europe!" (2.4.139-41). Here she anticipates the consequences of its exchange, for she will eventually lose a European king's revenue by accepting it, but only after she has lost her husband, her sexual respectability, even her emotional stability. The vacancy of the manacle's interior signifies the state to which Innogen approaches, for she comes close to being "an O without a figure" (History of King Lear 4:171; Tragedy of King Lear 1.4.158). Yet the recovery of her newly-discovered brothers constitutes "two worlds" (5.4.375) to her and is presented as more than sufficient when she is reunited with her husband. As Jodi Mikalachki has demonstrated, this is not a play that validates female autonomy;20 it is much more concerned to affirm the importance of marital and familial bonds. The decline in her status makes Innogen's marriage to Posthumus viable according to dominant ideologies of Renaissance unions in which class positions of spouses were supposed to be relatively equal.21 The loss of emotional stability is also a direct reaction to the loss of her husband. Both Posthumus and Innogen fall apart when their marriage disintegrates, and the scene of Innogen mourning his supposed death while embracing Cloten's headless corpse dressed in Posthumus' clothing has a dramatic function similar to Posthumus' tirade of misogyny: both scenes exhibit the characters' deeply mistaken and foolish judgment.

     15. Posthumus' error has wider implications for his relation with Innogen, but he eventually makes a repentant recovery from his descent into misogyny. He has to improve in rank in order to be worthy of Innogen, and he does so, like his father, through feats in battle. The problems of his class are resolved through national affiliation in the masculine rite of war, for he literally fights for his improved status. When he makes his speech of misogyny at the end of act two, he leaves his sentence unfinished: "Could I find out / The woman's part in me-for there's no motion / That tends to vice in man but I affirm / It is the woman's part:" (2.4.171-74). The thought remains suspended because he cannot find that part in himself, that absence of women's genital space that is signified through the manacle; he cannot locate it even to violate it. Instead he distributes the woman's part into a catalogue of faults--ying, flattery, deceiving, lust and rank thoughts, "All faults that man can name, nay, that hell knows, / Why, hers in part, or all, but rather all--" (2.4.179-80). These parts circulate as a list of vices no longer connected to women's physical body but with explicit relation to a body of texts in the debate about women when Posthumus declares, "I'll write against them, / Detest them, curse them" (2.4.184-85). He want to become a common misogynist author venting his spleen against women. Perhaps we are fortunate that he does not show up for a full two acts, for he has the potential to be as boring and offensive as Joseph Swetnam.

     16. When we do encounter him again, his first words are, "Yea, bloody cloth, I'll keep thee, for I wished / Thou shouldst be coloured thus" (5.1.1-2). What is this bloody cloth but another sign of the woman's part, a cloth supposedly stained in Innogen's blood designed to confirm her murder but also evoking the blood-stained sheets of a marriage bed, like the handkerchief spotted with strawberries in Othello, and having associations as well with women's menstruation. Cymbeline's bloody cloth is related to As You Like It's use of the bloody napkin as proof that Orlando has been faithful to Rosalind despite his being wounded by a lion, and it affirms a connection to the woman's body as the handkerchief does in Othello; but given this play's attention to "the dearest bodily part" (1.4.144) through the manacle and Posthumus' preoccupation with "the woman's part," the bodily associations with this object are more specific and graphic. Posthumus' change over these two acts is marked by an acceptance of a token of the woman's body, and his willingness to forgive Innogen "For wrying but a little" (5.1.5) is the verbal counterpart to this visual accommodation. When he says, "Gods, if you / Should have ta'en vengeance on my faults, I never / Had lived to put on this" (5.1.7-9), "this" refers to the bloody cloth mentioned eight lines earlier. Editors have overlooked the stage property when they glossed the pronoun "it" as to instigate or assume responsibility for Innogen's murder,22 but the performance tradition offers as an antecedent the cloth that Posthumus holds in his hand. Having divested himself of ring and manacle, Posthumus wears that cloth like another token of his beloved. David Jones' 1979 production for the RSC directed Posthumus to put the cloth around his neck and tie it when he says "put on this."23 In the National's 1988 production directed by Sir Peter Hall and the 1997/98 RSC production directed by Adrian Noble, Posthmus later wraps the cloth around his head.24 He is putting on what Peter Stallybrass refers to as Innogen's meanest garment, the last remnant of her as far as he knows, and, having killed her "is forced to learn the value of the trace" even though it is "a purely theatrical stain, invented by Pisanio."25 In doing so, Posthumus elevates the value of this sign of women's sexuality, this visual stain associated with the sex that bleeds at the loss of virginity and has a bloody discharge as part of the process of generation. Although the cloth is a "meanest garment" associated with the underwear that Innogen probably refers to in her use of the term,26 Posthumus' acceptance of it as a token of Innogen allows it to serve as a replacement for the diamond ring which had belonged to Innogen's mother and had also affirmed women's role in establishing lineage. This more ordinary object will not become a commodity or circulate in the play, for the value of the bloody cloth to Posthumus is an intensely private matter. It is not just any woman's part; it is Innogen's.

     17. Through this stage property, the play provides some alternative to Janet Adelman's opinion that "the fantasy solution of Cymbeline was to do away with the female body altogether" and to Jodi Mikalachki's argument that it participates in a disincorporation of the feminine because the wicked Queen is killed off and Innogen remains in male attire at the end.27 Cymbeline effectively stages the woman's part through the properties of the manacle, ring, and the bloody cloth. In this last instance the stage prop functions to show Posthumus' repentance for his behavior and his acceptance of the woman's part in relation to his own body. That part is displaced onto objects in a way that separates it from the female body, but since the female body was itself absent from the Renaissance stage, the strategy is perhaps all the more necessary as a means of evoking it. Valerie Traub has objected that "the metaphorical displacement of sexually threatening women into jewels, statutes, and corpses perpetuates the containment and vilification of female erotic power" in Shakespeare's plays.28 Her critique is fully applicable to Cymbeline, although this play does foreground rather than conceal the ways in which the manacle functions to enclave Innogen's sexuality, and it displaces the problem of vilification onto Posthumus, who comes to represent male misogyny and its rejection of women's roles as procreators in patriarchy. As the play opens, marriage is not the only agent that effectively contains Innogen's erotic power: Posthumus' form of instantiating his desire through marriage as ownership, figured in the manacle, intensifies that containment, and he is punished for the impulse. But the redefinition of that social relation that the play arrives at does, as Jodi Mikalachki suggests, "emphasize the necessary subordination of the feminine within the patriarchal structures of marriage and empire" (Mikalachki xxx). Jean Howard's concern that "Cymbeline seems able to reprove the most virulent forms of misogyny only when it simultaneously removes women from public power, transforms them into chaste, domesticated wives, and reaffirms the dominance of husbands"29 is an important objection, one that the present analysis serves more to confirm than to contravert. My contribution to the feminist critique of this play is primarily to suggest the ways in which class complicates its approach to gender and nation and is figured in and through the objects that circulate among the characters. These props enable a staging of the woman's part in the play in ways that foreground, rather than ignore or simply debase, female sexuality. There is still reason to feel ambivalent about the need for and use of such props on the Renaissance stage and the ways in which they signify the female body, for women's bodies are more variously pleasurable and erotic than rings, manacles, and cloths can convey. Nonetheless, most assessments of the play have proceeded without a recognition of how the objects figure misogynist constructs of women's containment and circulation and then enable an assertion of Posthumus' more repentant and affirmative relation to the female body.

     18. After Posthumus has contributed to the British victory and changed to Roman attire so that he can be taken by the British, he finds himself in fuller bondage than he ever desired to place on Innogen, with "locks" on both his "shanks and wrists" (5.3.102-3). He considers this a "welcome bondage, for thou art a way, / I think to liberty" (5.3.97-98) and death. But after his dream, the messenger advises the jailer, "Knock off his manacles" (5.3.284), and he is taken to the king. Posthumus has to live the constraint of his own limbs before he can discover his identity and be reunited with his wife. In the recognition scene that follows, Innogen, as Fidele, being granted a boon by Cymbeline, asks Iachimo to "render / Of whom he had this ring" (5.4.135-36). Although this demand prompts Iachimo's confession and his mention of the manacle, referred to now for the first time in the playtext as a "bracelet" (5.4.204), Iachimo still retains both objects. Even after husband and wife are reunited in a long embrace, it is another 150 lines before both things are returned.

     19. This final exchange occurs principally between Iachimo and Posthumus. Since the manacle and ring served as trophies of Iachimo's victory over another man via a woman, they are presented immediately after Posthumus reminds Iachimo of his own dominance during the fighting: "I had you down, and might / Have made you finish" (5.5.412-13). Iachimo's response is to kneel to Posthumus and offer them to him along with his life:

                    Take that life, beseech you,
Which I so often owe; but your ring first,
And here the bracelet of the truest princess
That ever swore her faith. (5.4.415-18)

Posthumus responds to the play's final exchange of these goods with an ultimate generosity that shows he no longer weighs the calculative dimensions of such transactions. He spares Iachimo's life and forgives him for his injustices:

The power that I have on you is to spare you:
The malice towards you, to forgive you. Live
And deal with others better. (5.4.419-21)

Cymbeline's response to this sentence shows his own recognition that Posthumus has acted in a way that exceeds his birth: "Nobly doomed!" (5.4.421). Then the king imitates him by offering pardon all around. This general pardon and Cymbeline's reference to him as a "son-in-law" (5.4.422) are the fullest signs we have of his acceptance of his daughter's husband.30

     20. Posthumus' receipt of the objects and Cymbeline's imitation of his pardon confirm that the problems posed by his birth at the beginning of the play have been resolved because he is recognized for his physical strength, his moral rectitude, and the noble character of his dispensation of justice. It is only after these events that the Soothsayer expounds the riddle at Posthumus' request, a riddle that shows how fully his identity and fortunes are intertwined with those of his wife, his family, and his nation. If it was a form of male pride, stemming from insecurity about his own origins, that prompted Posthumus to enclave his wife's sexuality and to participate in the tournaments of value earlier in the play, then the audience is shown by the end that Posthumus has neither the impulse towards possession nor the reason for it that he once had. He has wallowed in misogyny, suffered by it, and repented it fully. His reward is a reunion with Innogen in a long embrace. When he associates her with the fruit of himself figured as a tree in the lines, "Hang there like fruit, my soul, / Till the tree die" (5.4.263-4), his revision of the marriage topos of the elm and the vine figures her as the dearest and best part, even the soul, of himself. It also inverts misogynist reductions of women to Eve who ate of the fruit of that forbidden tree. The text claims a full incorporation of husband and wife at this moment, one that achieves its intensity as a resolution of the earlier fragmentation of both partners and their union.

     21. Meanwhile the manacle, having swung so widely in value from signifying Innogen's sexual containment to marking all women's sexual license, can revert to the status of a bracelet, perhaps even a trifle, since its earlier associations and its commodifying potential have been nearly evacuated. Unlike the ring which is named 17 times in the play, or the handkerchief in Othello which is mentioned 27 times, the bracelet is only referred to as such on two occasions, and then only in the last scene. Readers of the play encounter it in editorial stage directions as early as the first gift exchange, but the noun is not heard in performance until the end. It is such a visible stage prop that the bracelet does not even have to be named, and the absence of a stable or repeated verbal signifier permits greater play with its signification. As staged in most recent productions, it is simply a big ring, large enough to be seen from a distance and functioning as an exaggeration of the claims and commitments often associated by Shakespeare with the smaller object. Yet its size is also more appropriate as a sign of the woman's part, the visible presence of women's lack, and a mark of their commodification, containment, devaluation and circulation through exchange. It should come as no surprise, then, that this same sign appears on program and book covers as a means of commodifying, advertising, and selling the play. From 1773 to the second series of the Arden edition which is still in print, texts of Cymbeline have been offered for sale with covers that present images of Innogen with the manacle on her arm.31 Program covers for the RSC's 1989 Stratford mainstage production of the play and the 1997/98 RSC production were also changed to images that include Innogen and the manacle, presumably because other images did not sell or project as well.32 Theatre companies, book sellers, and their advertisers have been quicker than critics to assert the importance of the manacle to the play. In its first verbal appearance, however, it critiques the impulse to own that so relentlessly configures marital gift exchanges, even as it now lures buyers into purchasing the texts and performances that are still on sale in our commodity culture.

 

 

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I am grateful to members of two seminars at the meetings of the Shakespeare Association of America in 1997 and 1998 for their responses to different versions of this essay, to Laura Lyons and Tina Malcolmson for their advice and encouragement on it, and to those who offered questions and comments when I presented it at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham; Froebel College at Roehampton Institute; and King's College, University of London in spring of 1998.

 

Notes

1 The entertainment included a dialogue between a Bailiff and a Dairymaid, another between Time and Place, a speech by Place on the queen's departure, a complaint of five satyrs against the nymphs, and a poem accompanying the presentation of "a robe of rainbows" to the queen, all of which were first printed in John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. 3 (London: John Nichols and Sons, 1823), pp. 579-94. The first printings of the song sung by the sailor who brought the lottery box and the poem about the lots appeared in A Poetical Rapsodie (London: Nicholas Okes for Roger Jackson, 1608). The music for the song was printed in Robert Jones's Ultimum Vale (London: 1608). For an overview of the entertainment, see Jean Wilson, "The Harefield Entertainment and the Cult of Elizabeth I," The Antiquaries Journal 66, part 2 (1986): 315-329.

2 Robert Krueger, ed. The Poems of Sir John Davies, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 411.

3 The couplets are quoted from Krueger's edition; this one is No. 17, p. 211. On p. 411, Krueger cites the D.N.B. entry on Anne Clifford as evidence of her frugality and abstemious living. See also Helen Wilcox, "Anne Clifford," Her Own Life: Autobiographical Writings by Seventeenth-Century Englishwomen, ed. Elspeth Graham, Hilary Hinds, Elaine Hobby and Helen Wilcox (London: Routledge, 1989), 35-53.

4 Wilson, p. 324.

5 Charlotte Isabelle Merton, "The women who served Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth: Ladies, Gentlewomen and Maids of the Privy Chamber, 1553-1603," Diss. Trinity College, Cambridge, 1992, p. 73. Merton says in the same place that Radcliffe "is known to have handled the jewels in 1573" but formally took over the care of "hundreds of items from Blanche Perry in July 1587," and see p. 78. See also Eunice H. Turner, "Queen Elizabeth I and her Friends," History Today 15 (1965): 619-31.

6 Violet A. Wilson, Queen Elizabeth's Maids of Honour and Ladies of the Privy Chamber (New York: E. P. Dutton, [1922]), pp. 275, 190.

7 Thoms, William J., Anecdotes and Traditions, Illustrative of Early English History and Literature (London: Camden Society, 1839), p. 8.

8 All references to Shakespeare's plays excluding Cymbeline are to The Norton Shakespeare based on the Oxford Edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997).

9 The Tempest 1.2.465, Prospero to Ferdinand: "I'll manacle thy neck and feet together"; 2 Henry VI (The First Part of the Contention of the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster) 5.1.147, Clifford to York about Warwick and Salisbury: "We'll bait thy bears to death / And manacle the bearherd in their chains"; Measure for Measure 2.4.90-94, Angelo to Isabella: ". . . that you his sister/ Finding yourself desired of such a person / Whose credit with the judge, or own great place / Could fetch your brother from the manacles / Of the all-binding law"; Coriolanus 1.10.55-56, Cominius to Coriolanus: "If 'gainst yourself you be incensed we'll put you, / Like one that means his proper harm, in manacles."

10 Cymbeline, ed. Roger Warren (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 1.1.123-24. All quotations to Cymbeline will be to this edition unless otherwise noted. Yet I will retain the Folio spelling of "Iachimo" in referring to that character, rather than "Giacomo."

11 "Introduction: commodities and the politics of value," The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 3.

12 Appadurai resists the notion that gift and commodity exchanges are fully separate from one another. He also finds commodities even in preindustrial, nonmonetary societies. In both respects he is revising the work of Karl Marx and other early political economists.

13 See Ann Barton's discussion of the likelihood that this marriage is only a spousal de praesenti, a clandestine precontract, in "'Wrying but a little': marriage, law, and sexuality in the plays of Shakespeare," Chapter 1 of Essays, Mainly Shakespearean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 3-30.

14 Igor Kopytoff, "The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process," The Social Life of Things, ed. Appadurai, p. 75.

15 Geoffrey Bullough, ed., Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 8 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), p. 55.

16 Thomas Dekker, The Whore of Babylon (London: Nathaniel Butter, 1607), sig. B1v, where the Empress of Babylon says, "Her Kingdom weares a girdle wrought of waves, / Set thicke with prectious stones, that are so charm'd, / No rockes are of more force."

17 Linda Woodbridge, "Protection and Pollution: Palisading the Elizabethan Body Politic," in The Scythe of Saturn: Shakespeare and Magical Thinking (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994): 45-85. A longer version of this essay appeared in Texas Studies in Literature and Language 33 (1991): 327-54.

18 Warren's note to 2.4.128: "Is this i.e. the ring is the token of her infidelity."

19 Thomas D'Urfey, The Injured Princess, 1682, facsimile rpt. London: Cornmarket Press, 1970. The title of the play given on the page on which Act I begins reads "The Unequal Match; or the Fatal Wager," sig. B1.

20 Jodi Mikalachki, The Legacy of Boadicea: Gender and Nation in Early Modern England (London: Routledge, 1998), Chapter 3. First published as "The Masculine Romance of Roman Britain: Cymbeline and Early Modern English Nationalism," Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (1995): 301-22.

21 In The Flower of Friendship, Edmund Tilney's primary spokesperson in the dialogue advises that "equalitie is principally to be considered in this matrimoniall amitie . . . . For equalnesse herein, maketh friendlynesse," ll. 286-89. I have discussed this passage in the introduction to my edition of the dialogue (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp. 50-59.

22 Warren, note to 5.1.9 "put on instigate"; Nosworthy, note to 5.1.9 "put on] usually explained as to instigate, incite (this crime), but assume, take on myself seems equally possible."

23 The promptbook indicates that Posthumus enters the act with "cloth in R hand" and at the line "put on this" the direction reads, "Cloth round neck and ties it," Shakespeare Centre Library.

24 Of the National's 1988 production, Warren comments that "Posthumus' transformation was clinched by the very effective device of wearing the bloody cloth wrapped round his head, with eye-holes cut in it, like a guerilla's balaclava. By the time he had gone through the battle, his face and body not only caked in grime but streaming with blood, his own and other people's, it was no surprise that he was unrecognizable to anyone except the audience until he chose to reveal himself." Roger Warren, Staging Shakespeare's Late Plays (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), p. 74. In Noble's 1997/98 production, Posthumus had the cloth tied around his head after he reentered at 5.3.

25 Peter Stallybrass, "Worn Worlds: Clothes and Identity on the Renaissance Stage," Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture, ed. Margreta de Grazia, Maureen Quilligan, and Peter Stallybrass (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 310.

26 Warren, ed. Cymbeline, n. to 2.3.130-31: "Posthumus' meanest garment is presumably his underwear, chosen by the now enraged Innogen because the point at which it clipped (encircled) Posthumus' body will be particularly provocative and humiliating to Cloten."

27 Janet Adelman, Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare's Plays (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 219; Jodi Mikalachki, The Legacy of Boadicea, p. 113.

28 Valerie Traub, Desire and Anxiety: Circulations of Sexuality in Shakespearean Drama (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 49.

29 Jean Howard, "Introduction" to Cymbeline, The Norton Shakespeare, p. 2963.

30 Barton emphasizes the reference to "son-in-law" in "'Wrying but a little,'" p. 30.

31 Bell's 1773 printing of the play used as its frontispiece an etching of the bedroom scene in which Iachimo notes Innogen's body and her chamber while she sleeps with the manacle on her arm. Nosworthy's 1955 Arden edition of the play reproduced this image in its earlier and probably original printing until the cover was changed to the current version (reprinted at the beginning of this essay) of a portly and grizzle-haired Posthumus placing a bracelet on Innogen's arm. The slipcase for Roger Warren's 1989 book on Cymbeline in the Shakespeare in Performance series uses a photo from the 1962 RSC production that shows the bracelet on Vanessa Redgrave's arm with a cormorant Eric Porter about to take it off. The paperback of Warren's 1998 Oxford edition of the play uses an image of the Sleeping Venus by Giorgione and Titian that evokes the sleeping Innogen, but without the manacle.

32 The program cover for the 1987/88 RSC production by Bill Alexander at The Other Place and The Pit first presented an image of a huge eagle, the bird on which Jupiter is mounted when he descends during Posthumus' dream. As the program unfolds, the eagle spreads its wings. But when this production was recast and moved to Stratford's mainstage in 1989, the cover was changed to reveal a seemingly naked Innogen asleep, with her braceleted arm draped across her face. The viewer of this program is positioned like the voyeuristic Iachimo and invited to scan her body, its singular ornament in stark contract to the smooth surface of her skin. The 1997/98 RSC production also changed its image of the play in the middle of a run. The Stratford performances used an Oriental drawing of characters scattered about in a landscaped setting for its program cover; but when the production moved to London in January of 1998, the cover was altered to a steamy close-up of Innogen and Posthumus staring in unison at the bracelet that he has apparently just placed on her arm.

 

 

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