Antony and Cleopatra Critics


Kastan - Shakespearean Tragedy

•“The incalculable murderousness of the world” – there’s no justifiable reason as to why tragedy occurs, which perhaps exemplifies its appeal

•“Its reticence about who or what is responsible for the dire change of fortune” – we are unable to rationalise, which heightens the fear

•“The characters struggle unsuccessfully to reconstruct a coherent worldview from the ruins of the old” – characters are unable to learn from their history, perhaps untrue for Caesar at the end of the play

•“An arbitrary destiny reflecting the indifference, or worse, the malignity of the heavens” – is God without care or purposefully hateful? Critical of religion?

•“The unanswered (perhaps unanswerable) questions of the tragic world” – through the play, the audience is forced to explore the unanswerable aspects of tragedy

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Nuttall - The Pleasure of Tragedy

•“Grief and fear become in their turn matter for enjoyment” 

•“Pleasure need not occupy the foreground of consciousness” – people do not consciously think of experiencing something agreeable

•“The pleasure of tragedy is an immediately uncomfortable phrase” – the two words are contradicting in their powerfulness

•“If people go again and again to see such things, they must in some way enjoy them” – is it enjoyment or just interest, are they the same thing?

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Bradley - The Shakespearean Tragic Hero

•“Make the whole scene a scene of woe” – heroes such as Antony bring about the downfall of all other people: Cleopatra, Enobarbus, Charmian

•“Tragedy with Shakespeare is concerned always with persons of high degree” – Antony and Cleopatra are both powerful leaders

•“It is, in fact, essentially a tale of suffering and calamity conducting to death” – not everything in the play is suffering, in order to appreciate the tragedy, it perhaps should start without suffering to show the contrast clearly

•“They are also, as a rule, unexpected” – tragedies mean that death is inevitable, although the deaths themselves could be interpreted as sudden

•“The heroine is as much the centre of the action as the hero” – perhaps not true for Cleopatra, her woes are based upon Antony’s troubles

•“Unexpected and contrasted with previous happiness or glory” – the previous greatness of Antony is not shown in the play, although it is talked about

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Jacobson - Antony's Suicide

•“He who lives by love enjoys the same justice, but dies at the hands of a crueller antagonist” – injustice heightens the sense of tragedy

•“Making them weep is where he is strong” – Antony uses emotions to make people side with him, even if it doesn’t work the way the he intends, offering his soldiers and Enobarbus money

•“Given us with the sharp apparentness of some-thing close to farce” – an almost farcical nature of Antony’s death, link to the Pleasure of Tragedy

•“The speech is a failure; he makes himself [...] supremely unkillable” – his good intentions have bad consequences

•“The price he pays for having made himself too much a man” – many people still idolised Antony and regarded him as a God, Hercules

•“Antony, as we have seen, has not been good at steeling men for a long time now” – not his strongest suit, but we see that he is able to do it

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Jones - The Play's Structure

•“We seldom if ever penetrate beneath the surface or overhear a speaker’s unspoken thoughts” – characters such as the soldiers and the train are constantly on stage

•“The constant changes of location […] works to encourage an ironical comparative response, not quite detachment” – forces the audience to experience the contrast in scenes

•“There are as many viewpoints as there are human beings” – Romans and Egyptians generally have the same view, although not as a rule (e.g. Enobarbus)

•“Clearing the stage every hundred lines or so forbids […] any very deep emotional engagement on the part of the audience” – not necessarily true, we are still invested in the lives of the characters

“Human beings are intelligible neither to each other nor to themselves” – Caesar and Cleopatra are seen as sure of themselves, Enobarbus knows Antony better than himself

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Tanner - Time and Timelessness

•“The events of the play are indeed of world importance” – the most geographically sweeping of Shakespeare's plays

•“Antony and Cleopatra are out of time, in more than one sense” – they appear to be running out of time but also transcending it, eternal ‘bubble’

•“The whole world seems in a hurry” – people not being where they are presumed to be: Caesar with Dolabella and Antony with Caesar, constant fluctuation of scene changes

•“For Rome, Egypt represents a great waste of time” – shows East vs. West conflict, events in Rome seem very chronological, Egypt seems less tied by this chronology

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Donald - Bolting Up Change

•“There is an oscillation – a constant movement to and fro” – shown through quick scene changes and vast amount of characters

•“All her [Cleopatra’s] passionate vitality is focused on Antony” – perhaps untrue, she has love for her country and people

•“It is only in death that the movement can be stilled” – link to Tony Tanner

•“Inconsistency, swings of mood, ill-judged impulsiveness: all these are part of the human condition” – true for Cleopatra, fleeing sea battle and arguments with Antony

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