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Forum Home > Shakespeare > Antony and Cleopatra

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 855

A message from Dr Robson in preparation for her seminar:

"I propose 3 areas for discussion:


1. Perspective

 

Antony and Cleopatra plays constantly with perspective.

 

The title suggests this is tragedy with two protagonists so where should our sympathies lie?

 

Is the choice between Egypt or Rome? Or is it possible to think of a world that could encompass Egypt and Rome?

 

Is Antony a ‘strumpet’s fool’, ‘noble ruin’ or ‘the greatest prince of the world’?

 

How can Cleopatra be composed of ‘infinite variety’ and also be ‘marble-constant’?

 

2. ‘A noble play’?

 

William Hazlitt called this ‘a noble play’ and said that in it ‘Shakespeare’s genius has spread over the whole play like the overflowing of the Nile.’

 

What might make it a noble play?

 

How is Shakespeare’s ‘genius’ shown?

 

Is it a tragedy?

 

 

3. Enobarbus: the Shakespearean interloper

 

Shakespeare often inserts characters into plays that aren’t in his sources. Enobarbus doesn’t appear in Plutarch’s original life of Mark Antony but he has an important role in Shakespeare’s drama.

 

What do you think his role is?

 

What would be lost if he wasn’t in the play?"

May 11, 2013 at 7:29 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 855

If you are intending to attend this seminar, please have a read through and ponder on these prompts sometime before Monday evening. That will mean you get the most out of the seminar. :)

May 15, 2013 at 10:31 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 855

Neil Bowen at May 15, 2013 at 10:31 AM

If you are intending to attend this seminar, please have a read through and ponder on these prompts sometime before Monday evening. That will mean you get the most out of the seminar. :)

Tonight's seminar will take place here...

May 20, 2013 at 2:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

CJRO
Member
Posts: 22

Hello, Thank you for agreeing with this, the topics of discussion look interesting!

May 20, 2013 at 2:03 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 855

If nothing seems to be happening here, click under where it says upcoming seminars. The discussion may be going on there already!

May 20, 2013 at 2:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

[email protected]
Member
Posts: 155

Sorry - I'm here now. Glad you think the topics look interesting, CJRO. Let's satrt with perspective. Do yhave an answer to my question about where our sympatheies should lie?

May 20, 2013 at 2:06 PM Flag Quote & Reply

CJRO
Member
Posts: 22

 

Hello, whilst I personally have great sympathy for the character of Antony, I feel The Jacobean would sympathise with Caesar most as his ideals seem to correspond with the Elizabethan ideals

 

May 20, 2013 at 2:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

[email protected]
Member
Posts: 155

Interesting CJRO - what ideals do you think those are?

--
May 20, 2013 at 2:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

GraceAce
Member
Posts: 8

From a Compatibilist viewpoint, surely our sympathies should not lie with either character, but should remain neutral? To sympathise with one character over another would be to view the other character as a villain who destroys their lover.

May 20, 2013 at 2:09 PM Flag Quote & Reply

MrsOrlandoBloom
Member
Posts: 6

I think that the logical assumption would be to sympathise with Antony, after all the play demonstrates his fall from the 'triple pillar of the world'; but could it be argued that it is Caesar who deserves the sympathy? He is the stute politician who Antony is constantly criticised for failing to be, but still is described as 'Fortune's knave'!

May 20, 2013 at 2:09 PM Flag Quote & Reply

CJRO
Member
Posts: 22

I feel the Jacobean audience would see the benefits of empire and peace and those are both integral to the Roman world and so I think it would be natural to sympathise with values that match your own. 

May 20, 2013 at 2:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

[email protected]
Member
Posts: 155

Thanks, GraceAce. Do you think Shakespeare writes it so that his audience and readers can stay neutral? it seems ot me that the title suggests that Antony and Cleopatra are the the protagonists and so for the tragedy to work surely we must feel something for them?

--
May 20, 2013 at 2:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

GraceAce
Member
Posts: 8

But Caesar is a Machiavellian character, an attitude which was highly frowned upon by the Jacobean/Elizabethan audiences. If anything, Cleopatra is most akin to Elizabeth, and Antony to the patriarchal society in which the audience lived. Caesar is almost a villain; we feel distant from him.

May 20, 2013 at 2:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

[email protected]
Member
Posts: 155

OK, MrsOrlandoBloom - I agree that Caesar is lucky but what about when the Soothsayer in 2.3 describes Antony as 'noble, courageous, high, unmatchable' and says that his 'angel' is damaged when Caesar is near?

May 20, 2013 at 2:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

CJRO
Member
Posts: 22

I don't know if we can entirely sympathise with Cleopatra though as she is such a manipulative and political character underneath her facade of grandeur. Clearly, she is a woman in a mans world but she has manipulated 'great Caesar' and now Antony and I don't personally think that the audience would sympathise with that. 

May 20, 2013 at 2:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

GraceAce
Member
Posts: 8

We feel something for both characters. Up to Act 4, we sympathise more with Antony, as we see his fall from power, but in Act 5 we are left to focus fully on sympathising with Cleopatra. Thus, by the end, our sympathies are levelled, and we ourselves are torn between Egypt and Rome.

May 20, 2013 at 2:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

[email protected]
Member
Posts: 155

CJRO at May 20, 2013 at 2:11 PM

I feel the Jacobean audience would see the benefits of empire and peace and those are both integral to the Roman world and so I think it would be natural to sympathise with values that match your own. 

Is it the purose of tragedy to make an audience feel the benefits of empire and peace? what about pity and fear?

--
May 20, 2013 at 2:15 PM Flag Quote & Reply

MrsOrlandoBloom
Member
Posts: 6

Cleopatra is definitely akin to Elizabeth- all except for the virginal Queen propaganda! Cleopatra emasculates herself, but in doing so becomes a 'whore', which seems to exempt her from receiving any sympathy.

 

May 20, 2013 at 2:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

[email protected]
Member
Posts: 155

GraceAce at May 20, 2013 at 2:12 PM

But Caesar is a Machiavellian character, an attitude which was highly frowned upon by the Jacobean/Elizabethan audiences. If anything, Cleopatra is most akin to Elizabeth, and Antony to the patriarchal society in which the audience lived. Caesar is almost a villain; we feel distant from him.

So if Cleoaptra is like Elizabeth I is that a good or bad thing as far as Shakespeare is concerned? Which opinions of Cleopatra do you find most convincing in the play?

May 20, 2013 at 2:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

CJRO
Member
Posts: 22

I agree with you there Grace, we are levelled in terms of Egypt and Rome but I feel as Caesar is the last to speak it seems that Rome is the one to rise victorious and win overall sympathy. 

May 20, 2013 at 2:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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