Name: Strength - Innogen Leonatus
Dramatis Personae: Innogen Leonatus; Posthumus Leonatus; Cloten; Iachimo; Guidarius & Arviragus.
Hebrew Letter: CHETH
Text & Context: The 8th Hebrew letter, Chet, relates to life [chayim], grace [chen], and wisdom [chokhmah]. Life is a gift from God, and a life made true comes from devotion [chasidut]. Chet itself is made up of the two preceding letters, vav and zayin, tied together with a small lambda or yoke. If The Chariot agency [zayin] of The Lovers [vav] work together in unison, the result is life-giving fortitude - vav's 6 and zayin's 7 amount to the gematria value of ahavah: Love. It is also the value of echad: One - Love unifying in true fellowship, as God is One. If, however, the egos of The Lovers are at sixes and sevens, the two remain separate as in The Devil card, tied together and hoist by the lambda which dangles The Hanged Man, and results in the 13th card, Death. Properly speaking, chet is a doorway, signifying new beginnings, where the blood of the lamb was smeared on the first Passover. It ushers in grace, as with the lamb of God's gift of the Holy Spirit. It leads to Olam Haba, a higher state of being, where the lion lies down with the lamb.
Originally, the chronology of the Strength and Justice cards was reversed. Similarly, Cymbeline is an early play by Shakespeare, partially reworked by the author at a later date, and subsequently misplaced by scholars chronologically. Furthermore, the name Imogen in the First Folio is a misspelling of Innogen - a misprint left uncorrected. Innogen, Gaelic for "girl" or "daughter", was the wife of Brutus of Troy, first king of Britain. Posthumus Leonatus then, as well as being the author self-punished and penitent, is also one of his metonymic personas - Brutus who brought Athene's Palladium to New Troy. One telling of the Brutus myth has him descended from the cursed Ham, another founding Britain after accidentally killing his father with an arrow; this latter may account for the name Posthumus. By marrying the King of Britain's daughter, Leonatus associates himself with the heraldic lions of England; Leonatus meaning "adorned with lions" or "lionized".
Leonatus' outburst of jealousy is stronger than the character Leonatus himself can support. His blur of motherhood and infidelity prefigure's Hamlet's. As Iachimo is a little Iago, so Leonatus' invective echo Othello's tirades against women. His vow of literary revenge is odd unless seen as proxy for the author. Clinging to the memory of his dead father, Leonatus changes sides, until - at the point of death himself - he is visited by the ghosts of his family. Jupiter, father of Athene, god of the sky and patriarch of Olympian Gods, arrives too, mounted on his eagle, indicating the book that rests on Leonatus' breast. In the end, having believed Innogen and himself as good as dead, Leonatus' soul will hang pendulous, as a piece of fruit. The written revenge he avowed - the fruits of his belabored wrong - will come to fruition in his foretold book.
Here in the Strength card, Leonatus is represented by a griffin - mythological creature related to the Phoenix, sacred to the sun, half lion half eagle, symbol of earth and sky. The griffin is cognate with the cherub, sometimes seen in youthful human form, at others a winged combination of lion, eagle, ox, and human. In Judaism, cherubim are guardians of the Tree of Life. The griffin is also a version of the sphinx, which adorn Athene's helmet and the feet of Jupiter's throne. As Innogen says of her choice of Leonatus over Cloten: "O blest, that... I chose an eagle, and did avoid a puttock."
Like Pallas Athene, Innogen represents the balance of male and female; a reflexive spear in her right hand and a reflective book in her left. The manifestation of the soul begins with conflict. Innogen's strength as a woman is as strong as any man's; when she becomes a man - Fidele - it remains no less true. The substance and power of Innogen's sexuality oppresses the men who would oppress it. Iachimo's Trojan Horse trick robs Leonatus' strength, not Innogen's. Iachimo defects, and then Leonatus. The men's vagrancy and fitfulness belie their lack of inner fortitude. Finally, Innogen's fidelity will still them. Cloten, who has neither inner nor outer fortitude, will simply be severed asunder. The weak scheming of his mother will fall away as a spent carapace. Innogen is the emergent imago, the sexually and spiritually matured, the earth-bound taken wing.
Cymbeline the play is a chrysalid and seed of future Shakespeare characters and themes. The person of Innogen embodies the strength and grace of human character. Iachimo's repentance, and the death of Cloten and his mother the Queen, represent the defeat of base impulses. Belarius and Pisanio signify the fruits of steadfastness. Cymbeline himself enacts the valor of reconciliation with the enemy. The bracelet Posthumus gives Innogen, what he calls "the manacle of love", is easily removed by the thief Iachimo because the emanant nature of love cannot be outwardly manacled, nor does the symbolic attempt to do so have any power. Conversely, the ring Imogen gives Posthumus and he gambles with remains true and telling, like Innogen herself, despite her husband's permutations. Her band, then, symbolizes the life bond between woman and man. Finally, the strength of Cymbeline seen as a whole is exemplified in the reunion of parent and child, sister and brother, husband and wife.
Subtext: Akin to Leonatus, the author left England for Italy soon after marrying and upon his return accused his wife of infidelity. As a result, he was banished from the court and, turning Turk, set up residence in the theater district of London and surrounded himself with a coterie of writers. Before the marriage of Edward de Vere and Anne Cecil, a suitor for her hand had been the poet Philip Sidney. Cloten therefore, may be an allusion to Sidney. The name, meaning random piles of cloth, may refer to his poetry, written on fibrous material similar to cloth, and suggesting superficiality, as of clothing. Sidney's good friend and fellow Areopagus poet Spenser dedicated his Shepherd's Calendar to him, and Cloten may be a verbal allusion to Spenser's Colin Clout. Spenser's father was a tailor. Cloten's "Hark, Hark! the lark" aubade is in the style of Spenser. Sidney's mother was Mary Dudley, the sister of the Earl of Leicester, infamous for the use of poison.
Cymbeline suggests the Ghibellines. His war with the Rome of Augustus alludes to the Ghibellines' war with the Guelphs, the former representing the early Christian Church run by council and the latter by the later nefarious influence of an unchecked Papacy. Innogen suggests both Astraea and Queen Elizabeth I. The Cumaean Sibyl, which both Virgil and Dante repeated, had predicted the messianic return of Astraea, or Virgin Justice; this would occur through the sanctified Imperial ideal, synonymous with the 500 year-long renovatio of the Phoenix presiding over a 2nd Golden Age.
Intertext: Staffs 6 Iachimo
STRENGTH VIII IMOGEN LEONATUS