Antony and Cleopatra Study Guide

Antony and Cleopatra Study Guide

Original title:
The Tragedie of Antony and Cleopatra
2005 by Washington Square Press (first published 1606)
ISBN 0743482859 (ISBN13: 9780743482851)

“Anthony and Cleopatra” is a famous tragedy by William Shakespeare, based on the amazing and dramatic story of fatal love between Roman commander Mark Antony and the Queen of Egypt Cleopatra. It is a kind-of-history play about two of the most glorious societies in the Ancient World. Written in 1607–1608, this play absorbed a number of different themes that were presented in Shakespeare’s previous works.

The conflict on which the play is built is the contrast between Egypt, the heart and soul of which is Cleopatra, and Rome, embodied in the image of Octavius Caesar. Octavius, a subtle and intelligent realist politician who creates a state affair, is opposed to Antony, a brilliant adventurer, deprived of any state thought and a sense of responsibility, subordinating everything to his egoistic attractions and passion for pleasure. Both of them are concentrated in the personality of Cleopatra. It is not just a clash of characters who cannot coexist; it is a clash of principles, a struggle of different worldviews.

This play is about the collision of the protagonists with Destiny, which means, on the one hand, the insuperable reality of the surrounding world, and on the other hand, an irresistible for the heroes reality of their contradictory nature. However, the uncertainty of the specific content of recognition remains unresolved.

The play consists of two plot lines: the first one creates a special poetic reality, the other one represents the story of famous personalities. The theme of politics and love are combined in such a way that the second one complements the first one, making the play deeper. The main characters of “Anthony and Cleopatra” practically do not explain themselves - they "show" their feelings and aspirations.

“Anthony and Cleopatra” is an amazing and unique play. The main peculiarity of its poetics is the ambiguity and the multiplicity of plot points of view, which the author was able to write into the “monologic frame” of its drama. All aspects of poetics and composition of this play are involved in creating of a comprehensive and at the same time organic worldview, in which different, often opposite perspectives complement and clarify each other. According to critics, this play belongs to Shakespeare's most outstanding creations.

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