A Spoilt, Capricious Woman Who Has it Her Way: "Antony and Cleopatra" by William Shakespeare

The Annotated Shakespeare (Three Volumes in One): The Comedies, The Histories, Sonnets and Other Poems, The Tragedies and Romances - William Shakespeare

Can I erase from my mind the images of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton making love? The "parade" when Cleopatra entered Rome? The magic sails of Cleopatra's barge? It's all Hollywood, of course...


Antony and Cleopatra is not one of the plays when I think of Shakespeare. I have only seen a dodgy film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, as I've said above, and, of course, “Carry On Cleo” with the famous line said Kenneth Williams 'In for me I for me, they have all got it in for me.' "Dodgy version" hahaha! That film really should have been called "Dick & Liz in Egypt" - all I can remember is Richard's knees in that Roman outfit and Liz's ubiquitous eyeliner. 


The first important tragedy by Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (R&J), is a love story, like Antony and Cleopatra (A&C), the last of his greatest tragedies. But they are different on many aspects: first, the age of the lovers: teenagers in R&J, and approaching middle-age in A&C; in R&J the action lasts four days, in A&C it covers a period of several years; Juliet is candid, Cleopatra is deceitful; Romeo and Juliet prefer death to a life without love, Antony is torn between love and the desire to resume his position in the Roman empire; in R&J the obstacles to love are external factors, in A&C they are internal, as the lovers’ own hesitations, doubts and betrayals. But there are also many similarities: one of the two lovers’ death is due to poison and the other’s to a cutting weapon; both the men die in a sepulchral monument; in both the plays there is the false report of the woman’s death. These can’t be coincidences. The second theme at the centre of A&C is the conflict between public responsibilities and private affections, already dealt in Henry V: there the former prevailed, here the latter. This theme is worth being studied in depth because it’s topical when referred to the present day politics.


NB: Reading progress update: I've read 991 out of 2462 pages.