Molly's Reviews > Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
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's review
Aug 26, 2011

really liked it
Read in July, 2011

Loved this one. Fascinated by Cleopatra's ability to lead and wrap Antony around her little finger... How cool to add William Shakespeare to a chain championing the cause of women! And I love thinking about Cleopatra’s end in this light—that despite all of her flaws, she gets a final say on being female.

And now some grad school thoughts on being a king...
How could James I have wanted to see himself in the Augustus Caesar of Antony and Cleopatra? I admit to being an Antony fan, but Caesar squeezes Lepidus out of the triumvirate, wages war against Pompey (after agreeing to peace) and attempts to trick Cleopatra into returning to Rome with him after Antony’s death. I don’t see virtue in the man who tells Cleopatra he will not shame her, but behind her back says, “her life in Rome/ Would be eternal in our triumph” (5.1.65-66). Caesar seems, as critic Wortham writes, “anything but attractive” (116). Wortham then goes on to suggest reading Antony and Cleopatra as a morality play where “it is possible to see a personal warning to James to be politically astute and survive (like Octavius) or to follow a path of self-indulgence and perish (like Antony)” (116). I have trouble thinking of Shakespeare as a man powerful enough to be giving morality tips to his king—as Worthman notes “[the] King's Men as a company had cause to be grateful to the king” and not vice versa (99). If we read Antony and Cleopatra as a morality play and Caesar as an image of James I, wouldn’t it be more likely that James hoped the audience recognized that survival of the “politically astute” king in the end?
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