Cymbeline is classified as a romance by editors.
But classification is almost arbitrary, in its way. The editors had to put it somewhere. But calling it a “romance” short-changes this play. It’s odd and strange and in the 500 years since it’s been written, we’ve never been sure what to make of it really. Critics range wildly from hailing it a late masterpiece to calling it an afterthought of Shakespeare's.
Like so many things, the truth ( I think) lies somewhere in the middle. One of chief critiques thrown at the play is that characters are one-dimensional without much personality beyond an archetype. In working on the script, I have learned that this is not at all the case. These characters of Shakespeare’s ancient Britain and Italy are as fully human as any he created. The stories of Imogen, Posthumus, the Queen and Cymbeline are rich, varied, with greater depth than they are often credited with. They rage, they mourn, they scheme, they love, they regret, they triumph in jumps and spurts that can seem head-spinning at times. “They can’t behave that way,” you’ll hear critics say. “It doesn’t make sense.” To that I say, yes. That’s correct. For when has humanity ever made sense? Being alive and making it through the world is a tricky proposition. We are all doing the best we can. Sometimes our best can be confusing.
So, with that in mind, I have hoped to steer this production to embrace the unclear humanity of these characters and this story. And we hope you see something of yourselves too. Thanks for joining us.
– Jared Michael Delaney, Director of Cymbeline