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Soundtrack: Fidele's Burial Song

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Jan 28, 2021 at 06:52 PM in Project News

In Fall 2020, the English Senior Capstone course at UC Merced, led by Dr. Katherine Steele Brokaw, spent the semester researching Shakespeare and Ecology. Students read the work of several ecocritics and environmental activists, as well as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Lear, and Cymbeline. The students developed their own research projects, and also did collaborative work towards an eco-adaptation of Cymbeline, in anticipation of Shakespeare in Yosemite’s Spring 2021 production of the play. The group projects included a re-imagining of Imogen/Fidele’s burial song, which we will feature today, and individual research projects, including Amber Loper’s inestigation of Shakespeare’s birds, which she turned into a local avian adaptation of Cymbeline. We will post some excerpts from it in the coming weeks on the Cymbeline in the Anthropocene blog.

Combining lines and music from Coldplay's "Yellow" and John Denver's "Annie's Song," this adaptation of Fidele/Innogen's burial song was created by singer Serena Johnson, and Sierra McCormack. Click the image above to listen to the song, and read Sierra's artistic statement below:

"In our group’s Cymbeline project, we focused on enhancing the relationships during Imogen’s death scene using music. My role in the project was primarily in returning to the text to match our ideas with the actual text. In this way some of our members were able to give ideas that sounded good, and I could give feedback on what most closely resembled the actual story. Imogen’s death scene is only a result of a circumstantial misfortune. However, to her disguised brothers, Arviragus (Cadwal) and Guiderius (Polydor), their new friend has died very suddenly. Their confused grief is exemplified in the first verses. These verses focus on comparing their grief for Imogen to the stars, “Look at the stars/ Look how they shine for you/ And everything you do” (1- 3). These lines parallel the following lines from Cymbeline: “With fairest flowers/ Whilst summer lasts and I live here, Fidele,/ I'll sweeten thy sad grave: thou shalt not lack/ The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose, nor/ The azured harebell, like thy veins, no, nor/ The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander,/ Out-sweeten'd not thy breath: the ruddock would,/ With charitable bill,--O bill, sore-shaming/ Those rich-left heirs that let their fathers lie/ Without a monument!--bring thee all this;/ Yea, and furr'd moss besides, when flowers are none,/ To winter-ground thy corse” (4.2.280 - 291)."

"In Imogen’s verse in the song she focuses on the relationship between nature and mankind, “Fear now the sun/ As it turns us to dust/ How we’ve broken the trust/ Per me sei bello (to me, you are beautiful)” (22- 25). This verse shows that Imogen is thinking about how mankind has negatively affected the earth. This is thematically important in Cymbeline because Imogen struggles to maintain her agency while every man has an opinion of her future. Despite running away, she is chased by Cloten into the forest. The forest is a place where her circumstances are finally changed. Cloten is murdered by her brother, and she is rendered seemingly dead by the fake poison. Our group was thinking about how to express Imogen’s near death and these lines express our thoughts on that. We wanted her to be able to connect to nature, and therefore connect to her womanhood in a play dominated by men. Imogen’s lines show a conscious regret of the way nature protects mankind, yet mankind has “broken the trust”. We also imagined this scene with Imogen lying covered in flowers, primarily red and yellow and orange and white, to highlight her connection to nature."