§--'s Reviews > Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
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Aug 03, 10

bookshelves: shakespeare
Read from July 20 to 22, 2010, read count: 1

Ugh. Boring. Slow. Maybe it's really cool to watch, but it's really tedious to read fifteen scenes in Acts III and IV, especially when we know (from history) how it ends. It felt like more of a history than a tragedy: 1) because the slowness of the play made it seem like Shakespeare was held down by the facts rather than freed (as in the mythological plays like King Lear); 2) because neither Antony nor Cleopatra ever seem "great" and therefore can't have much of a downfall; 3) because there's not much good, poignant, or interesting poetry in here, despite its length; and 4) Shakespeare wrote some very similar plays which beat the pants off of A & C (and 99% of human literature)--Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Julius Caesar. A & C just doesn't stand up to any of those; it's like it was written by a different author.

Of course, it wasn't. Shakespeare is up to his usual tricks, his usual themes, his usual penis jokes:

IRAS
Am I not an inch of fortune better than she?
CHARMIAN
Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than
I, where would you choose it?
IRAS
Not in my husband's nose.

Tee hee. And there are some famous lines and everyday phrases which are taken from the play.

CLEOPATRA
My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then!


A & C has primarily interested feminists over the years, and it's not hard to see why:

DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS
But there is never a fair woman has a true face.
MENAS
No slander; they steal hearts.

or

DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS
I think so too. But you shall find, the band that
seems to tie their friendship together will be the
very strangler of their amity: Octavia is of a
holy, cold, and still conversation.
MENAS
Who would not have his wife so?

or


CANIDIUS
Soldier, thou art: but his whole action grows
Not in the power on't: so our leader's led,
And we are women's men.


SCARUS
The greater cantle of the world is lost
With very ignorance; we have kiss'd away
Kingdoms and provinces.


SCARUS
She once being loof'd,
The noble ruin of her magic, Antony,
Claps on his sea-wing, and, like a doting mallard,
Leaving the fight in height, flies after her:
I never saw an action of such shame;
Experience, manhood, honour, ne'er before
Did violate so itself.


So, do we feel shame? No, not really. I didn't really care what happened to any of these characters, because none of them were sympathetic or honorable. I like Octavius the best. Anyway, Shakespeare seemed like he was trying too hard to be accurate, so the structure of the play is all screwy. There's a rising action (!) for the first three acts, and then a long, slow, descent. Yawn yawn yawn.

Also, this is the earliest use of the word "haters" I can find. LOL.
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