— 2.1 —
Cloten and two lords spoke together in front of King Cymbeline’s palace.
“Has any man ever had such bad luck!” Cloten complained. “I threw my ball so well that it kissed — touched — the target, but then it was hit away! I had bet a hundred pounds on the game, and I cursed, and then a bastardly upstart reprimanded me for swearing, as if I had borrowed my swearwords from him and could not spend them as I pleased.”
“He got nothing by criticizing you,” the first lord said. “You broke his head with your ball.”
The second lord thought, If the man with the broken head had weak and watery brains like Cloten, his brains would have all run out.
Cloten said, “When a gentleman is disposed to swear, it is not for any bystanders to curtail his oaths, is it?”
“No, my lord,” the second lord said.
He thought, Nor to crop the ears of the gentleman.
A curtail dog is a dog with a docked or cropped — that is, cut short — tail. The second lord was thinking of cropping the ears of an ass. Cloten was an ass, but his mother was Queen, and so no one could justly criticize him and thereby improve him — no one could crop Cloten’s ears.
“The dog! That son of a whore!” Cloten said. “I gave him what he deserved. I wish that he had been one of my rank!”
Cloten would have liked to fight the man in a duel instead of merely hitting him with a ball. But Cloten, a snob, believed that he could not fight the man in a duel because the man’s social status was lower than his own. Of course, because Cloten’s mother was the Queen, it would be very dangerous for a man of a lower social rank to duel Cloten. Anyone who killed Cloten would almost certainly be condemned to die.
The second lord thought, Cloten said, “I wish that he had been one of my rank!” If he had been rank like Cloten, he would have stunk like a fool.
Cloten said, “I am not vexed more at anything on the Earth — a pox on it! I had rather not be as noble as I am; they dare not fight with me because of the Queen my mother. Every Jack-slave has his bellyful of fighting, and I must go up and down like a cock — a rooster — that nobody can match.”
The second lord said quietly to himself about Cloten, “You are cock and capon, too; and you crow, cock, with your comb on.”
The second lord was calling Cloten a capon — a castrated rooster that had been fattened for eating — and a fool. Fools wore coxcombs — jesters’ hats — on their heads.
“What did you say?” Cloten asked.
“It is not fitting that your lordship should take on and fight every fellow that you give offence to,” the second lord said.
“I know that,” Cloten said, “but it is fitting that I should give offence to my inferiors. It is suitable for me to deliberately offend my inferiors.”
“Yes, it is fitting for your lordship only,” the second lord said.
Such an action as deliberately insulting others because they are “inferior” is fitting and suitable only for clods such as Cloten.
“Yes, that is what I am saying,” Cloten replied.
The first lord asked Cloten, “Did you hear about a stranger who came to the court last night?”
“A stranger came here! I did not know that! I was not informed about it!” Cloten said.
The second lord thought, Cloten is a strange fellow himself, and he does not know it.
“An Italian man has come here,” the first lord said, “and it is thought that he is one of Posthumus Leonatus’ friends.”
“Leonatus!” Cloten said, “He’s a banished rascal; and this Italian’s another rascal, whoever he is. Who told you about this stranger?”
“One of your lordship’s pages,” the first lord said.
“Is it fitting that I go to see him?” Cloten asked. “Is there any derogation in it? Will I be lowering myself?”
“You cannot derogate, my lord —” the second lord said.
He thought, — because you cannot go any lower.
Cloten said, “I cannot easily derogate, I think.”
The second lord thought, Everyone already knows that you are a fool; therefore, your actions, being foolish, do not derogate you. Your performing foolish actions does not lower you because people expect you to act foolishly.
Cloten said, “Come, I’ll go see this Italian. What I have lost today gambling at the game of bowls I’ll win tonight from him. Come, let’s go.”
“I’ll wait upon your lordship,” the second lord said.
Cloten and the first lord exited, and the second lord stayed behind and said to himself, “I can’t believe that such a crafty devil as his mother the Queen should yield the world this ass! His mother is a woman who overwhelms everyone with her brain, and this Cloten, her son, cannot subtract two from twenty, for his life, and come up with the answer eighteen. Alas, poor Princess, you divine Imogen, what you endure! You have a father who is ruled by your stepmother, who each hour forms plots. You also have a wooer — Cloten — who is more hateful than the foul exile of your dear husband and who is more hateful than that horrid act of divorce between you and your husband that he — Cloten — would make! May the Heavens hold firm the walls of your dear honor, and keep unshook that temple, your fair mind, so that you may endure and withstand such trials and may eventually enjoy your banished lord and this great land!”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved