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Shakespeare's Villains - Iachimo

Anna Griffiths, in the strong rooms at the Shakespeare Centre, investigates some of the origins of the Iachimo story, one of Shakespeare's most notorious villains.

Shakespeare’s Villains is a series of blogs by Finding Shakespeare and our education team.


Taking off her bracelet 
As slippery as the Gordian knot was hard!
'Tis mine; and this will witness outwardly,
As strongly as the conscience does within,
To the madding of her lord. On her left breast
A mole cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops
I' the bottom of a cowslip: here's a voucher,
Stronger than ever law could make: this secret
Will force him think I have pick'd the lock and ta'en
The treasure of her honour. No more. To what end?
Why should I write this down, that's riveted,
Screw'd to my memory? She hath been reading late
The tale of Tereus; here the leaf's turn'd down
Where Philomel gave up. I have enough:
To the trunk again, and shut the spring of it.

-Cymbeline Act II, Scene ii

This week we are considering Iachimo for our Villain’s blog. In Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, Iachimo places a wager with Posthumus that he can seduce his wife, Imogen. On failing to do so, Iachimo, not wanting to lose his bet, hides himself in a trunk to gain access to Imogen’s bedchamber. Once she is asleep he emerges, steals her bracelet, and notes down the details of both her room and her body to use as evidence of his 'success'.

Access and Interpretation Coordinator, Anna Griffiths, is in the strong rooms at the Shakespeare Centre, investigating the origins of the Iachimo story.

Discover our Flickr album on Iachimo, which shows how his character has been portrayed in RSC productions, and don’t forget to check out yesterday’s Iachimo blog at Blogging Shakespeare.