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Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra

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Antony and Cleopatra

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  1. Antony and Cleopatra First lecture

  2. Shakespeare’s comic tragedy? • That paradox may define this play. • It certainly contains the most fun, the most comedy of any of Sh’s tragedies. • A sort of middle-aged Romeo and Juliet? • But with little “tragic feel” in its ending. • Differences from R & J. • The joking, the puns, continue right up to the ending. • And the play ends with something of a feel of triumph, that A & C have somehow won . . . • . . . in spite of the fact that they die. • Perhaps the main paradox of a play full of paradoxes.

  3. Differences from Sh’s other “great” tragedies • Does human evil have any role in the play? • Cleo? She bears the main responsibility for “ruining” Antony. • But are we on her side? • Octavius? Just doing his “Roman” job? • Role of gender: in the other tragedies, masculinity, maleness, seems to rule. • And the agency of women, save for the special case of Lady M, is limited. • In the comedies, by contrast, femaleness (I’m eschewing “femininity”) rules: e.g., Beatrice, Portia, Rosalind, Viola. • Males must yield to females, or values traditionally associated with women, in comedy. • But the “tragedy” of A & C breaks this mold. Cleo rules. • And unlike Lady M, she doesn’t ask to be “unsexed.” • Au contraire!

  4. That first scene • Contrast of theatricality and mere text? • Text seems to make Philo’s point: “this dotage of our general’s/ O’erflows the measure.” • See Philo’s theatrical invitation: ll. 10-13. • What do we “behold and see”? • Of course he’s right – and Demetrius agrees. Q.E.D Philo. • Everything Philo had said in the first 10 lines is born out. • Antony is certainly ga-ga for Cleo, over-top-top, head-over-heals in love. • Rome? Fugedaboutit. • Clip from Royal Shakspeare Company production film (1974) with Janet Suzman and Richard Johnson (strongly recommended) – first scene. • What else do we “behold and see”?

  5. The “world” of Antony and Cleopatra • The most wide-ranging of Shakespeare’s plays? • The “world” stretches from Alexandria to Rome, encompasses Messina (Misenum,in Sicily), Pompey’s galley (off Messina), Athens, Actium, even some place in Syria. • So much for Aristotle’s “unity of place”! • The historical significance of the battle of Actium? • The “world” as defined by Rome and Egypt? • And how Egypt is characterized: e.g., in I.2. • And Antony: “a Roman thought hath struck him.” • What’s “Roman”? • The view from Rome: 1.4: in Caesar’s view, “A man who is the abstract of all faults/ That all men may follow.” • Rome, by contrast?

  6. Egyptian values • Cleo’s subjectivism: I.5. “what was he, sad or merry?” • Her “revisionism”: “O brave Caesar”? “O brave Antony”! • And extravagance: Everyday a greeting “Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.” • Fishing, Cleo style: II.5 • Out drinking Antony – and dressing him in her clothes! • And how to treat a messenger: II. 28ff. • “I have a mind to strike thee ere thou speakest.” • And her response to the bad news . . . • Recall Antony’s “Roman” response to a messenger at I.2: 94ff. • The messenger’s return in III.3: the messenger’s report on Octavia: “low-voiced” and not as tall as Cleo become “Dull of tongue and dwarfish.” • Her gait? • Her years: thirty. A Pintereque pause? (The historical Cleo was 39.) In any case, no response from Cleo. • Her face, her hair? • “The man hath seen some majesty, and should know.”

  7. Roman values • Antony on Fulvia: “There’s a great spirit gone.” • She had been waging war on Antony’s part (II.2.47ff., 66ff) • (Cleo’s “Can Fulvia die?”) • Octavius: I.4.28-33: duty and pleasure. • Antony’s previous forbearance: 56ff. • The need for discrete speech: Maecenas vs. Enobarbus II.2.105ff. • Agrippa’s proposal: Roman purposes for marriage. • Caesar’s ratification of this: ll.159-162. • So let’s get going on Pompey!

  8. Image of Egypt/Cleo in Rome • Maecenas: “You stayed well by’t in Egypt.” (i.e., tell us about it!). • Eno: “I will tell you.” And he does. • A poetry of paradox and hyperbole. Baroque vision? • Think of Titian (Prof. Snyder’s slide of Titian’s Venus), Bernini, • Agrippa: “O, rare for Antony.” • “Rare Egyptian!” • Eno’s poetic elegance, to which Agrippa responds . . . • “Royal wench! . . .” • Making “defect perfection.” • Antony leave her? • “Never. He will not” • And his wrapping her in paradox, 245-50. • Over against the good Roman [and English] virtues of Octavia.