English 431B: Advanced Shakespeare

A survey of the works from the second half of William Shakespeare's career

Antony & Cleopatra Notes

March 27

Staging of first scene
Center door of the Tiring House was larger and might be more suitable for the entrance of Antony, Cleopatra and the train.
How important are Demetrius and Philo? Also, where are they going to be on the stage?
No front curtain in Shakespeare’s time so audience sees the characters entering the stage.
Very different from all the plays so far in this course. Shakespeare is never content with the status-quo.
Antony provokes arguments.

Philo: “Nay, but this dotage of our general’s / O’erflows the measure.”
Dotage has a slightly negative connotation. Feeble/childish state, but can also be used in a romantic context. Excessive of the quality of their devotion.
This term in this context is of disapproval. The word “O’erflows” leads to ambiguity about Antony’s dotage.

Philo “Look where they come: / take but good note, and you shall see in him / The triple pilar of the world transformed / Into a strumpet’s fool.”

Cleopatra “If it be love indeed, tell me how much.”

Antony “There’s beggary in the love that can reckoned.”

Line 26 Cleopatra speaking. Antony rejects the messengers.

Lines 33-40 centerpiece to the scene, well written. Cleopatra doesn’t believe a word of Antony’s speech.

Scene leaves us simultaneously informed and perplexed. Hints that no ones words are entirely true.

Demetrius “… I will hope / Of better deeds tomorrow.”

No events, but opinions/voices are given in this first scene.

For a renaissance tragedy there is little in the way of decisive action. Scenes are typically short. Everyone judges everyone else.

Act 1, Scene 4 line 45 Ceasar. No absolutes in this world.

Language of liquids/water/sea. Action takes place on or near the sea. World of this play is unstable, constantly changing. Creatures of mood and impulse.

Act 3, Scene 1 often cut in performance. See Antony & Cleopatra through Ventidius’s eyes.

Plutarch wrote about all the important characters in ancient Greece and Rome and finds  parallels between them.

Sir Thomas North translated Plutarch’s book

Shakespeare makes us feel that these characters are not fixed in history. Future of these characters is open and unsettled. The knowledge of them is incomplete.

March 29

Conflict of civilizations in Antony & Cleopatra in second scene of Act 1.
Roman values: Fortuna (roman deity), mental toughness/stoicism
Egyptian values: prose, longer speeches, sexuality, “party animals,” life of Egypt is the life of the body

Is this play tilted in the direction of Egypt or Rome?

Antony exchanges Egypt for Rome.
Act 1.4 Caesar says Antony is no longer manly

vir = man

Antony is being criticized for taking up Egyptian values. Whenever his past is brought up it serves as a contrast to his current status. This is the only unquestioned ideal in the world of the play.

Plutarch’s work, however, talks about a number of his failures.

Antony decides to marry Octavia, Caear’s sister
Act 2.2 The decision is meant to strength the bonds between Casear and Antony

Act. 2.6

Act 3.4

Cleopatra’s past is not always spoken about in complementary terms. She says she was a “morsel for a monarch” for Julius Caesar.

Act 2.2 Enobarbus’s speech is taken from Plutarch. Plutarch: prose history in 3rd person vs. Shakespeare: blank verse poetry
Barge serves as a metaphor of Cleopatra, deified by Shakespeare’s description. Speech is in the same scene as Antony agreeing to leave Cleopatra. This indicates he will go back to her.

External observations replace internal conflicts. No soliloquies to keep the characters at a distance.

April 3

Antony appears not to want the power that was thrust upon him in the past from his military conquests.

Does the play favor one culture over another?

Act 3, Scene 7 line 27 “We will fight with him by sea.”

Enobarbus thinks this choice is wrong.

Line 34 +

Seems that Antony is drawn to the sea.

Scene 10

Scene 11

Scene 13

Act 4, Scene 2, Line 10

Scene 3

Scene 5

Scene 6

In Act 5, Scene 2 Shakespeare is pulling out all the stops as a poet. Her death leaves her beauty preserved, while Antony’s is bloodied.


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One thought on “Antony & Cleopatra Notes

  1. Cleopatra spoke Greek as her first language; however, she did take the time to learn Egyptian, something that made her more popular with the Egyptians. In addition Cleopatra learned the ways and beliefs of the Egyptians solidifying her position as Pharaoh even more.

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