Cymbeline and Ink Study

"Material objects and scientific epistemology continually transited across the spheres of the domestic, the marketplace, the laboratory, and scenes of artistic practice."

This paper investigates the many instances of marking and staining that are present in Shakespeare's Cymbeline. Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is replete with both visual and verbal markings, and the material connotations of the visual arts inscribed meanings upon these marks that were unique to Early Modern theatre-goers. The plot of Cymbeline revolves around various actions of marking that foreground the negative connotation of “stain” that marking entails. In this play, the semiotic function of the mark is revealed to be both transgressive as well as unstable due to the material and penetrative act of writing as well as the inherent possibility of misreading and misrepresenting by the play’s characters. The inability of the symbol to effectively convey total and truthful meaning is systematically revealed by the playwright through the deployment of markings that are physically and geographically removed from their speakers and writers. However, the process of writing is always separated to a greater or lesser extent from the act of reading, especially in cases of letter correspondence.

2019 by Elizabeth D. Brissey

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