Antony and Cleopatra is concerned with a conflict between two cultures and two philosophies incapable of understanding each other. By examining the dramatic methods used by Shakespeare give your response to the above, and how relevant is this to Shakespeare’s day?
Shakespeare wrote this play at the height of his career. He was a master of his craft and with Antony and Cleopatra he broke free from trusted formulas and really gave his audience a show to remember. Familiar with the traditional story, the audience would have delighted in the rapid twists and conflicts happening on stage. A mixed audience attended the theatre, in terms of education and class, so Shakespeare would have put in a bit of everything to appeal to everybody. This play has tragedy, comedy, risqué behaviour, battle and love scenes.
Egypt and Rome represent the opposing states of mind that Antony battles with throughout the play, duty or pleasure, reason against passion. This has a universal appeal as everyone can identify with inner conflicts on what we should do and what we desire to do. Although the play has been modernised into a five-act structure, Shakespeare did not create these divisions. Instead he had forty scenes, which flowed like a montage into each other.
Culturally, Rome and Egypt were also very different, although Romans would have been more wary of Egypt because of questions of politics and economics (the corn supply) than lifestyle choices. In Egypt the River Nile provided fertile agricultural land. This place is considered relaxed and indulgent compared to Rome “in the East my pleasure lies”. The efficient and militaristic society of Rome had the River Tiber, which provided them with sea power and access to trade. “A Roman thought hath struck me”, suggests duty and seriousness.
“Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch
Of the ranged empire fall! Here is my space.”
Mediterranean Romans would not have attached much significance to Cleopatra’s ‘tawny’ front as...