Antony and Cleopatra
Adelman, Janet. The Common Liar: An Essay on “Antony and Cleopatra.” New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973.
In this influential book-length study of the play, Adelman argues that Antony and Cleopatra engages its readers and audiences in a constant struggle to achieve “right judgment,” a dilemma both complicated and enriched by the play’s many “moments of framed commentary.” Most of these moments yield contradictions between the stage action of the protagonists and the glorious poetry used to describe them (e.g., the fissure between Cleopatra’s elaborate dream of Antony in act 5 and his poor military decisions and bungled suicide enacted earlier). Almost every major action (such as why Antony marries Octavia when he plans to return to Cleopatra) is to some degree inexplicable, and nothing goes unquestioned. Further contributing to the “uncertainty that is an essential feature” of the play is the repeated use of hyperbole and paradox—two devices that are especially appropriate because they “gain our credence by appealing to our doubt.” Adelman gives considerable attention to the Venus-Mars and Dido-Aeneas analogues, which Shakespeare drew on in fashioning the multiple identities of his protagonists. While most of the play insists on audience skepticism, the final scene invites assent through a secular leap of faith as we are asked to view the lovers as “semi-divine creatures” whose love transcends the temporal and spatial bonds of mortality. In Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare suggests that “occasionally truth can be told only in lies.”
Barroll, J. Leeds. Shakespearean Tragedy: Genre, Tradition, and Change in “Antony and Cleopatra.” Washington, D.C.: Folger Books, 1984.
In the hope of deducing “something about the nature of all Shakespearean tragedy,” Barroll makes Antony and Cleopatra the cornerstone of this study of the literary, historical, and philosophical backgrounds of Shakespeare’s tragic dramaturgy. The volume consists of three parts: (1) “The Nature of Tragic Drama,” which addresses the aesthetic arrangement of suffering and the dramatic challenge inherent in representing the human figure on stage without the aid of an all-knowing narrative voice whose commentary sheds light on character and event; (2) “The Tragic Person,” which specifically focuses on Antony and Cleopatra as flawed characters deluded by their self-images as, respectively, the consummate soldier and “the most beautiful woman on earth”; and (3) “The Tragic Ethic,” which takes up the issue of empire and conquest and the view from outside Rome. While the tragic protagonists are directly responsible for their failures, in the end we find “the comedy of triumph rather than the tragedy of failure” because what is underscored is “their mighty efforts to stay whole,” not “their disintegration.” Shakespeare’s protagonists cannot tell us how to judge the events in which they are intimately involved; for that we must turn to the evaluative commentary of the “minor” characters who surround them. Consequently, the tragedy of a character like Antony “becomes the tragedy of his world too.”
Barton, Anne. “ ‘Nature’s Piece ’Gainst Fancy’: The Divided Catastrophe in Antony and Cleopatra” (1974 lecture). In Essays, Mainly Shakespearean, pp. 113–35. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Barton’s focus in this essay is Shakespeare’s use of the “divided catastrophe,” a structural device that allows for a further development of the tragic action following the death of the protagonist through an extended treatment of another character. In Antony and Cleopatra, by assigning Antony’s suicide to the end of act 4 and devoting the entire fifth act to Cleopatra and her delayed death—a structure found in no other Renaissance dramatic treatment of the story—Shakespeare elicits and gratifies an unconventional longing in the audience for the death of a character who has not been villainous: we want Cleopatra to die because we want her to prove faithful to Antony. The love story of Antony and Cleopatra “has fluctuated continually between the sublime and the ridiculous. . . . Only if Cleopatra keeps faith with Antony now and dies can the flux of the play be stilled, and their love claim value.”
Charnes, Linda. “Spies and Whispers: Exceeding Reputation in Antony and Cleopatra.” In Notorious Identity: Materializing the Subject in Shakespeare, pp. 103–47. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.
In her study of the ideological foundations of “notorious identity” (the pathological form of fame) in Richard III, Troilus and Cressida, and Antony and Cleopatra, Charnes observes that Shakespeare is less interested in “reproducing cultural mythography” than in demonstrating what is involved in the experience of being repeated, that process through which each “notorious” figure confronts the determinant power of an infamous name as he or she fashions a new identity. Unique in the canon for its great number of messengers, Antony and Cleopatra is the Shakespeare text that most emphatically explores the “relationship between staging spectacle and ‘controlling the press.’ ” Of all the legendary figures Shakespeare depicted, Antony and Cleopatra “achieve the highest degree of alterity to their prescripted roles.” To reduce Antony and Cleopatra to a love story is to view it only in terms of the protagonists’ self-representation and Caesar’s final tribute; the “central issue must be regarded not as what the love story is apart from the play’s other discourses but, rather, what it does in relation to them.”
Doran, Madeleine. “ ‘High Events as These’: The Language of Hyperbole in Antony and Cleopatra.” In Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language, pp. 154–81. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.
Doran locates “the distinctive and controlling feature” of Antony and Cleopatra in the trope and mode of thought known as hyperbole, which informs the characterization, imagery, spatial dynamic, and key issue of the play: namely, “the world for love.” She is particularly interested in the way Shakespeare juxtaposes “the golden threads” of a heightened style and “the plain, tough fibers” of direct speech so as to enrich and complicate rather than reduce images of greatness. Enobarbus’ famous encomium to Cleopatra (2.2.226–81) best illustrates the playwright’s “management of the hyperbolic and the actual so that the value of neither is destroyed.” Shakespeare’s favoring of hyperbole reflects the Renaissance pressure toward “the ideal, the excellent, the distinguished, the quintessential” in society, poetry, and history.
Drakakis, John, ed. Antony and Cleopatra. New Casebooks. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994.
Drakakis’ collection of twelve commentaries (eleven reprints and one previously unpublished essay) is part of a new series designed to “reveal some of the ways in which contemporary criticism has changed our understanding of commonly studied texts and writers and . . . of the nature of criticism itself.” The volume comprises the following essays: John F. Danby’s “Antony and Cleopatra: A Shakespearean Adjustment” (from Elizabethan and Jacobean Poets), Janet Adelman’s “Nature’s Piece ’gainst Fancy: Poetry and the Structure of Belief in Antony and Cleopatra” (from The Common Liar), Phyllis Rackin’s “Shakespeare’s Boy Cleopatra, the Decorum of Nature, and the Golden World of Poetry,” Terence Hawkes’ “King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra: The Language of Love” (from Shakespeare’s Talking Animals: Language and Drama in Society), H. Neville Davies’ “Jacobean Antony and Cleopatra,” Margot Heinemann’s “ ‘Let Rome in Tiber melt’: Order and Disorder in Antony and Cleopatra,” Linda T. Fitz’s “Egyptian Queens and Male Reviewers: Sexist Attitudes in Antony and Cleopatra Criticism,” Barbara C. Vincent’s “Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and the Rise of Comedy,” Jonathan Dollimore’s “Antony and Cleopatra (c. 1607): Virtus under Erasure” (from Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology, and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries), Marilyn French’s “Antony and Cleopatra” (from Shakespeare’s Division of Experience), Ania Loomba’s “ ‘Traveling Thoughts’: Theatre and the Space of the Other” (from Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama), and Jyotsyna Singh’s “Renaissance Anti-theatricality, Anti-feminism, and Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.” The essays either anticipate or exhibit the postmodern recognition of the instability of the playtext and the consequent refusal to impose a single, monolithic reading that tries to resolve all questions and contradictions. Drakakis observes that “Antony and Cleopatra is a text that submits itself to a variety of theoretically informed approaches, partly because of its obviously dialectical structure, but also because it traverses a range of issues which have direct relevance to current questions of history, theatre, genre, race, gender, and politics.”
Dusinberre, Juliet. “Squeaking Cleopatras: Gender and Performance in Antony and Cleopatra.” In Shakespeare, Theory, and Performance, edited by James C. Bulman, pp. 46–67. London: Routledge, 1996.
In this performance study of Antony and Cleopatra, Dusinberre brings a feminist interest in power relations and gender transference to the study of the play’s reception, focusing specifically on the implications for audience response inherent in the shift from a boy actor playing the role of Cleopatra to an actress in the part. From the Restoration onward the confusion of actress and role has been central to reactions to the play in performance: “A woman acting Cleopatra can never be simply a medium as the boy in Shakespeare’s theatre arguably was. She is always a representative of her society’s views on sensuality, and these views color her own interpretation . . . and the reactions of the audience.” In Shakespeare’s time the theatrical or performative energy informing the boy actor’s capacity to upstage the male “stars” of the company (especially in the final act) eclipsed the medium of his male body. Consequently, there was no need to be preoccupied (as male reviewers since the Victorian era have been) with the figure playing Cleopatra as “the principal signifier of the anxieties and obsessions, pleasurable and less pleasurable, which dominate the audience who watches her.” The actresses discussed by Dusinberre include Sarah Siddons, Ellen Terry, Isabella Glyn, Vivian Leigh, Peggy Ashcroft, Judi Dench, and Glenda Jackson.
James, Heather. “To Earn a Place in the Story: Resisting the Aeneid in Antony and Cleopatra.” In Shakespeare’s Troy: Drama, Politics, and the Translation of Empire, pp. 119–50. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
James investigates the ways in which Shakespeare’s dramatic translations of the Troy legend in Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida, Antony and Cleopatra, Cymbeline, and The Tempest served to legitimate the cultural place of the theater in late Elizabethan and early Stuart London. The author contends that in Antony and Cleopatra the protagonists are acutely aware of an obligation “to promote or disrupt the stories in which their meanings will be recorded.” “Seizing the Vergilian conventions through which they are recognizable as the legendary Antony and Cleopatra, the pair resist the characterological exhaustion planned by Caesar.” Nowhere is this resistance more pronounced for Antony than in the five lines anticipating a blissful afterlife for himself and Cleopatra in which they will supersede “Dido, and her Aeneas” (4.14.60–64); here, Antony “defends his value of erotic love and protects his heroic exemplarity” by directiy countering the derisive depiction of his choices found in the Aeneid. For Cleopatra, the ultimate resistance comes in her elaborately performed suicide in which she constructs her own myth of selfhood and in her “dream” of Antony in which she recomposes his heroic image. “Engrossed by the notion of playing to a court that is itself increasingly mimicking the theater,” Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra invites his audiences “to join him in imagining the theater rather than merely attending it—to join in inventing the theater’s cultural place.”
Kinney, Clare. “The Queen’s Two Bodies and the Divided Emperor: Some Problems of Identity in Antony and Cleopatra.” In The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print: Counterbalancing the Canon, edited by Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty S. Travitsky, pp. 177–86. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990.
Kinney distinguishes between the gender-bound identifications of Cleopatra with the mutability and variety of Egypt, and of Antony and Caesar with the rigid and exclusive divisions of Rome. While Cleopatra answers to many names in the play, the one that captures her identity most fully is the name Egypt, which triggers in the hearer’s mind “a kind of referential oscillation between the woman and the nation.” In Cleopatra the monarch’s two bodies—her private self as a woman and her public self as a queen—fuse in her embrace of “all possible versions of womankind, and the male principle too.” Antony and Caesar, in contrast, never “embody Rome. . . . They are merely Roman”; and to be Roman is to exist only in a public capacity that leads to a fragmented and limited sense of self. Where others see a diminishment of Cleopatra in her death, opting as she does to die “after the high Roman fashion” (4.15.101), Kinney sees the continuation of the Egyptian self of complementarity, for the Serpent of the Nile chooses as her instrument of death another serpent of the Nile.
Levine, Laura. “Strange Flesh: Antony and Cleopatra and the story of the dissolving warrior.” In Men in Women’s Clothing: Anti-theatricality and Effeminization, 1579–1642, pp. 44–72. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Levine relates the New Historicist concern with the theatricalization of power to the issue of gender to argue that in Antony and Cleopatra “masculinity itself is presented as a theatrical construct[,] . . . a role that must be performed in order to exist.” In Shakespeare’s story of the “dissolving warrior,” the performance of masculinity, however, proves malleable rather than fixed, always in danger of being transformed into the feminine. As a result, performance of the male self leads not to power but to a sense of powerlessness. The play exhibits the anxiety and fear informing the antitheatrical tracts written at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries: the anxiety that the convention of dressing boy actors in female attire would lead to a constitutive change in gender, and the fear that actions on the stage could lead audiences to engage in destructive behavior. Cleopatra’s memory of dressing Antony in her “tires and mantles” and wearing his sword (2.5.26–27) illustrates the former, her scripted “mock” death (4.13.9–14) that drives Antony to his suicide (4.14) the latter. In Caesar, the mouthpiece of anti-theatricality who paradoxically longs for what he criticizes, Shakespeare offers a critique of the antitheatrical position. The criterion that mediates the two sides of this dialectic is found in the last act as Caesar and Cleopatra compete to see who will “get the final performance, who will get the prerogative to stage her.” In staging her own death, thereby defeating Caesar, Cleopatra performs and thus creates “a self.” Theatrical expression, then, is required to allay anti-theatrical anxieties.
Loomba, Ania. Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989, esp. pp. 75–79, 124–30.
Central to this feminist analysis of the sexual politics of gender and race in Renaissance drama is the idea that gender as a product of cultural conditioning determines the place of women in their society, with race functioning as a further qualifier of that position. Observing how Antony and Cleopatra’s many spatial shifts and geographic metaphors compress “issues of imperial expansion, political power, and sexual domination,” Loomba considers the tensions between Rome as masculine and imperial and Egypt as its threatening “other,” an alien territory with which and to which Cleopatra is geographically defined and confined. The Egyptian queen’s “gender renders her politically unacceptable, her political status [as a female ruler] problematises her femininity, and her racial otherness [her blackness] troubles, doubly, both power and sexuality.” Cleopatra’s final subversion of the patriarchal construction imposed on her as “the white man’s ultimate ‘other’ ” comes in the fifth act when, recognizing that shared political power with Antony is no longer possible, she opts for “a politics of sublimation, rather than a transcendence of politics.”
Mack, Maynard. “Antony and Cleopatra: The Stillness and the Dance.” In Shakespeare’s Art: Seven Essays, edited by Milton Crane, pp. 79–113. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.
In this frequently cited essay, Mack describes the “unique metabolism” of Antony and Cleopatra as a “defiant pluralism” that results from Shakespeare’s deliberate structuring of polarities (Rome/Egypt, nature/art, war/love, indulgence/austerity, etc.) in ways that resist neat schematization. A principle of “mutability and mobility” permeates every aspect of the play: the spatial and geographic shifts, the frequent change of scene, the iteration of farewells and reunions, the imagery (e.g., the ebb and flow of the tide and the rising and setting of the sun, moon, and stars), and numerous emotional reversals. Ambiguity and flux are essential to the characterization of the protagonists, neither of whom can be reduced to any one of the many names or categories assigned to them. Even the language resists logical expectations with its proliferation of oxymorons and paradoxes and its favoring of the optative mood, which grammatically expresses a world in motion (e.g., “Let Rome in Tiber melt”). Shakespeare countered all the flux and impermanence by imaginatively extending the love affair into the realm of allegory and myth through analogies to the Venus-Mars and Dido-Aeneas stories and through evocations of themes and conventions associated with the sonnet tradition.
Marshall, Cynthia. “Man of Steel Done Got the Blues: Melancholic Subversion of Presence in Antony and Cleopatra.” Shakespeare Quarterly 44 (1993): 385–422.
Hank Williams, Jr., could have dedicated the song quoted in the title of this article to Antony since the play “dramatizes a version of the blues.” Marshall draws on the psychoanalytic theories and constructs of identity and melancholy found in the work of Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Judith Butler, and Julia Kristeva to probe the relationship between Antony’s melancholy (the blues) and his awareness of his dissolving identity as a “man of steel” (4.4.43). She argues that in the figure of Antony “the blues expresses the loss of control with which love threatens (but ultimately . . . enlarges) masculine identity.” Central to the author’s reading is an understanding of gender as performative and a questioning of “theater’s complicity in producing the illusion of coherent subjects.” The exchange between Antony and Eros in 4.14.1–14 “declares identity—both physical and psychological—to depend upon a spectator, thus suggesting the text’s parallel between subject formation and theatrical process.” Antony may be fascinated by Cleopatra’s fluid identity, but it threatens “his need for an Other against whom he can solidify a self.” Rejecting the traditional binarisms that posit Egypt as feminine and Rome as masculine, Marshall demonstrates how both Antony and Cleopatra display masculine and feminine characteristics. She further observes that “more clearly in Antony and Cleopatra than in most of Shakespeare’s plays, the emphasis on gender is not secretly limited to the feminine.”
Plutarch. The Life of Marcus Antonius. From Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes, translated by Sir Thomas North (1579). In Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, edited by Geoffrey Bullough, vol. 5, pp. 254–321. 1964. Rpt., London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; New York: Columbia University Press, 1975. [The entire section on the play’s sources and analogues occupies pp. 215–449.]
Plutarch’s life of Antony as found in North’s translation is considered the primary source for Shakespeare’s play. The dramatist borrowed extensively from Plutarch for his incidents, and on occasion from North for his phrasing (one of the most notable verbal parallels being Enobarbus’ famous description of Cleopatra’s mesmerizing appearance on the Cydnus). Shakespeare compresses the ten years that pass in Plutarch’s narrative, making only veiled references to some important events (e.g., the difficult Parthian campaigns), omitting mention of others (the eight years’ duration of Antony’s marriage to Octavia and the children they had), and taking liberties with chronology (having, for example, the deaths of his protagonists occur on the same day). Characters like Iras and Charmian are developed from hints in Plutarch, but Enobarbus, who is merely a name in the source, is entirely Shakespeare’s creation. Abandoning Plutarch’s moralistic tone, Shakespeare makes his version of the story more than the fall of a great man, and his Cleopatra more than the instrument of that downfall. While suggestions of a dual attitude toward Antony and Cleopatra are present in Plutarch, it remained for Shakespeare to magnify the complexity of the lovers, imbuing them from beginning to end with paradox and ambiguity. Shakespeare supplemented his major source with material (which Bullough either reprints or excerpts) from Plutarch’s Life of Octavius Caesar Augustus (North’s 1603 edition), Samuel Daniel’s Tragedy of Cleopatra (1599 edition), and The Civil Wars by Appian of Alexandria, translated by W.B. (1578).
Rackin, Phyllis. “Shakespeare’s Boy Cleopatra, the Decorum of Nature, and the Golden World of Poetry.” PMLA 87 (1972): 201–12.
Cleopatra’s prescient awareness that, if taken to Rome by Caesar, she would be forced to see “Some squeaking Cleopatra boy [her] greatness / I’ th’ posture of a whore” (5.2.267–68) is central to Rackin’s argument that Antony and Cleopatra dramatizes the clash between two views of poetry prevalent in the Renaissance—namely, that poetry imitates nature (and is thus subject to the dictates of decorum and verisimilitude) and that poetry (in the words of Sidney’s famous Defense) creates a “golden” world beyond nature’s “brazen” one. The interplay between these two notions of poetry and poetic truth are given voice and space in the Roman rationalistic reliance on measurement that discounts romantic rhetoric and spectacle, and in the Egyptian celebration of theatrical show and rejection “of a merely quantitative, reckoning standard.” The “recklessness” inherent in the passage—i.e., precisely at the moment when she is about to stage her greatest show, beguile all, and “establish [her and Antony’s] tragic worth,” Cleopatra calls attention to the disparity between dramatic illusion and the reality of the theatrical convention in which a boy actor played the part—is the “keynote” of Antony and Cleopatra as a whole: the most obvious examples are its extensive violation of the unities of time and space, its episodic structure, and its tragic protagonists who are often rendered in a comic light.
Rose, Mark, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of “Antony and Cleopatra.” Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1977.
This collection of important pre–1980 scholarship on the play reprints the following essays: Maurice Charney’s “Style in the Roman Plays” (from Shakespeare’s Roman Plays: The Function of Imagery in the Drama), Julian Markels’ “The Pillar of the World: Antony and Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Development” (from the book of the same title), Reuben A. Brower’s “Antony and Cleopatra: The Heroic Context” (from Hero and Saint: Shakespeare and the Graeco-Roman Heroic Tradition), John F. Danby’s “Antony and Cleopatra: A Shakespearian Adjustment” (from Elizabethan and Jacobean Poets), John Holloway’s “Antony and Cleopatra” (from The Story of the Night: Studies in Shakespeare’s Major Tragedies), and Robert Ornstein’s “The Ethic of the Imagination: Love and Art in Antony and Cleopatra” (from Later Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon Studies 8). Also included are excerpts from Prefaces by Bernard Shaw, Northrop Frye’s Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, Janet Adelman’s Common Liar, and Maynard Mack’s “Antony and Cleopatra: The Stillness and the Dance.” Printed for the first time is Bernard Beckerman’s essay “Past the Size of Dreaming,” in which the author, using the first scene as a microcosm of the whole, finds the heart of the play not in its “sprawling spectacle” and epic sweep of political and military events but rather in the more intimate “subtle motions of thought and feeling passing between” the two protagonists. In the introduction to the anthology, Rose addresses the “rather special position” Antony and Cleopatra occupies in the Shakespeare canon as the dramatist begins to move away from the tone, mood, and structure distinguishing his major tragedies and toward the defining characteristics of the late romances “in which love at last triumphs and things lost are miraculously recovered.”
Scott, Michael. Antony and Cleopatra. Text and Performance Series. London: Macmillan; Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1983.
The first part of the volume examines the language, imagery, characterization, and dramatic action of the play under the following headings: the Queen of Love (despite all her inconsistencies, Cleopatra is “first and foremost” a queen), the divided self (i.e., Antony, who is torn between Venus/Eros and Hercules/Mars), the paradox of experience (to see the play’s contrasts solely in terms of “moral polarities” is to misread the text), and Cleopatra’s death (a scene “crucial in bringing together the theme, purpose and theatricality that have pervaded the work”). The second part of the book provides an overview of the play’s performance history from the seventeenth century to 1982, with special attention to the Antonys and Cleopatras of Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh (the Michael Benthall/Olivier 1951 London and New York revival), Richard Johnson and Janet Suzman (Trevor Nunn’s 1972 Royal Shakespeare Company [RSC] staging), Alan Howard and Glenda Jackson (Peter Brook’s 1978 RSC production), and Colin Blakely and Jane Lapotaire (Jonathan Miller’s 1980 BBC version). A postscript deals with Adrian Noble’s 1982 RSC production at The Other Place with Helen Mirren and Michael Gambon.
Simmons, J. L. “Antony and Cleopatra: New Heaven, New Earth.” In Shakespeare’s Pagan World: The Roman Tragedies, pp. 109–63. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1973.
In an attempt to reconcile the idealistic poetry of Antony and Cleopatra with the realistic action that often undercuts it, Simmons posits a tragedy embedded in a comic structure. Drawing on the work of Northrop Frye and C. L. Barber, the author sees Egypt as a green world of liberation and Saturnalian festival that releases its inhabitants from the pressures of time and the rigid conventions and laws of Roman society. The worlds of Egypt and Rome thus find their analogues in the Belmont and Venice of The Merchant of Venice, the forest and court of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, and the tavern and court of the Henry IV plays. What makes Antony and Cleopatra a “delightful tragedy” is Cleopatra’s triumphant death, but even in the final scene the play’s conflict between love’s idealistic aspirations (“new heaven, new Earth”) and imperfect reality (“the dungy earth”) continues. In the mingling of the tragic and comic, it is appropriate that a clown should bring on the means of death. Reminiscent of the heroines of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, Cleopatra steps forward at the end “like the queen of comedy, arranging the happy ending of marriage and winning the admiration and approval of the Roman world’s highest moral sense.” Love and honor are reconciled and the lovers are granted the immortality that comes with “the height of fame.”
Wofford, Susanne, ed. Shakespeare’s Late Tragedies: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1996.
This anthology of new perspectives on Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra includes five post-1980 critical studies of Antony that relate the play to its early-seventeenth-century and twentieth-century cultural and political contexts: Jonathan Dollimore’s “Antony and Cleopatra (c. 1607): Virtus under Erasure” (from Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology, and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries), Heather James’ “The Politics of Display and the Anamorphic Subjects of Antony and Cleopatra” (the basis for the chapter from her book Shakespeare’s Troy: Drama, Politics, and the Translation of Empire cited above), Ania Loomba’s “Theatre and the Space of the Other in Antony and Cleopatra” (from Gender, Race, Renaissance Drama), Michael Goldman’s “Antony and Cleopatra: Action as Imaginative Command” (from Acting and Action in Shakespearean Tragedy), and Barbara Hodgdon’s “ ‘Doing the Egyptian’: Critical/Theatrical Performances, Oxford and London, 1906” (from Restaging Shakespeare’s Cultural Capital: Women, Queens, Spectatorship). In her introductory essay, Wofford explores dismemberment as “the principal political and figurative action” of the late tragedies: “If [Macbeth and Coriolanus] show why the tragic protagonist might need to escape suffocating or destructive totalities even at the risk of complete loss of self, Antony and Cleopatra can be read as a play that remembers and re-collects the dissevered tragic body in part by reimagining tragic dismemberment and the scattering of the self as bounty.”
Wood, Nigel, ed. Antony and Cleopatra. Theory in Practice. Buckingham, [Bucks.]: Open University Press, 1996.
As part of a series intended to bridge the gap between theory and practice, the four essays in this volume offer distinct readings of Antony and Cleopatra derived from particular schools of contemporary literary criticism: Barbara J. Baines employs René Girard’s theory of mimesis in “Girard’s Doubles and Antony and Cleopatra”; Dympna Callaghan applies Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s interweaving of issues of race, class, and gender in “Representing Cleopatra in the Post-colonial Moment”; Mary Hamer draws on Luce Irigaray’s study of feminist otherness in “Reading Antony and Cleopatra through Irigaray’s Speculum”; and Robert Wilcher takes up the complex question of genre (specifically citing the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, Jonathan Culler, Alastair Fowler, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., and Northrop Frye) in “Antony and Cleopatra and Genre Criticism.”
Worthen, W. B. “The Weight of Antony: Staging ‘Character’ in Antony and Cleopatra.” Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 26 (1986): 295–308.
Worthen uses the monument scene (4.15) to focus his argument that throughout Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare forces audience attention “to the means of theater . . . as part of our attention to the drama itself.” Antony in this scene and Cleopatra in her elaborately staged suicide compel our engagement in the complex dynamic between the materiality of the individual actor and his style of acting, the role itself (i.e., the sequence of actions performed), and the “character” (i.e., the fictive identity described in the narrative text, which is often at odds with the role in performance). In the physical act of hoisting a full-grown man ten or twelve feet in the air (if indeed this was the manner of staging), Antony is “momentarily suspended between legendary greatness and its tragic acting, his body resisting the Roman gesture and its lofty rhetoric while it gains an affecting weight of its own.” Throughout the play Shakespeare seems to italicize the tension between text (the “narrative character” retrospectively reconstructed) and performance (“the actor’s histrionic characterization”): i.e., the likelihood that the “performed character” of the actor will be inadequate to the “markedly ideal or ironic ‘character’ ” established in the narrative text. In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare “invites us to weigh both the story and its acting, and to find in the case of these huge spirits the specific gravity of the stage.”