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BBC Anthony and Cleopatra

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message 1: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Martin warned me that he found this a bit of a disappointment; I preferred the beginning to the end, for sure.
I didn't think there was miscasting as in the BBC's 'Troilus and Cressida', but something went wrong for me at least, as the tragedy at the end didn't strike me as immediate. I felt very aware that I was watching actors, which can't be right.
I have never seen any other versions of 'Anthony and Cleopatra' and have only read the play once, a good few years ago, so I would have to read it again or see another version to decide what was wrong with this one.
In the play itself I did think that somehow the tragedy of Anthony's botched suicide comes across as bathos raher than pathos, when he says, "What - not dead?!'
I thought Ian Charleson did a good job as a Machiavellian but sometimes emotional Augustus, wished we could have seen more of poor Octavia.
I did find the tragic speeches of Anthony and Cleopatra at the end of the play rather loud and long, I thought if she had spoken softly it would have had more impact, and if she had looked as though she was trying with all her might to haul him into the window.


message 2: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments I suppose it is a problem for classic drama on TV to know whether to adopt the stentorian stage style or the more intimate style of cinema.

I find with the BBC versions that however much you like them, you don't want to keep watching them over and over. Shakespeare may be endlessly readable, but that does not make individual productions endlessly watchable.

I must confess that disappointment with their A&C meant I never watched it through to the end. Very bad of me ....

I once saw A&C on stage, with Kate O'Mara as Cleo. Perhaps the most enjoyable S play I've ever seen.

message 3: by Lucinda (last edited Jul 24, 2011 12:11AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Martin, Did I apologise elswhere for forgetting to include an address label with package?
Good point about which style to adopt.
I have never read any critcism of A and C, I assume it must be a story partly about the 'shocking' influence of a female ruler and a temptress over a great warrior, who eventually loses face by following her from the battle in those ships turning about?
I felt very sorry for Octavia, I suppose Anthony was meant to mean all those promises of reform and then relapse...
I remember being struck by his magnaminity when he sends Enorbarbus's possessions after him. I suppose Enorbarbus is meant to die of lying out in 'the night air' and unhealthy mists, plus losing the will to live.
I wonder if I would have been sucker enough to believe Augustus' promises of fair treatment for her? He sounds as though he means them at the time he hears of Anthony's death, but I suppose he is very bitter against Cleopatara for his sister's humiliations and for causing the rift between himself and Anthony.
Does Ian Charleson play the then Octavius in 'Julius Ceaser'?
I have become rather like those people who watched the ghastly 'Sound of Music' thirty times with the BBC AWTEW, and I have watched it three times...(AWTEW, I mean, not the sound of music)I love the 'non cynical' ending!

message 4: by Martin (last edited Jul 24, 2011 02:39AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments A&C criticism: I recommend the Harley Granville-Barker "Preface", but I think the S group discussion on A&C had its moments too (joke!)

It had never occurred to me that Enobarbus did not fall on his sword in Roman style, but you are right, the nature of his death is unexplained. The soldiers who find him don't mention any wound. So once more S is faithful to his sources. Plutarch says,

"He also behaved with magnanimity towards Domitius, contrary to the judgment of Cleopatra. For when Domitius, who was already in a fever, got into a small boat and went over to Caesar, Antony, though deeply chagrined, nevertheless, sent off to him all his baggage, together with his friends and servants. And Domitius, as if repenting when his faithlessness and treachery became known, straightway died."

message 5: by Lucinda (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Ah, so he had a fever already. I remember Enobarbus uses the splendid word 'turpitude' when cursing his treachery.
Anthony in A and C is strangly contradictory, one minute magnanimous and admirable, the next seemingly quite calculating. In A and C they mention that he wept over Brutus' death and at the end of JC (my favourite play before I went over to AWTEW) he gives a eulogy on him, in contrast the the slanging match before Phillipi...But I am wandering from A and C to Julius Ceaser.


message 6: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments I meant to add that Charleson was not in the BBC Julius Caesar, where there is actually no overlap of actors with A&C.

What was Antony like? That kept coming up in the A&C discussion. Apart from the general problems of discussing character in Shakespeare (because different actors can create diferent but equally plausible characters out of the same role), I think it is most difficult with a character like Antony, who was (1) an historical figure, (2) derived from a still well-known source (Plutarch), and (3) appears in another play which may or may not be seen as connected. All these different Antonys get jumbled up.

I wonder if women are more interested in the character of Antony, and men in the character if Cleopatra?

message 7: by Lucinda (last edited Jul 24, 2011 08:13AM) (new)

Lucinda Elliot (lucindaelliot) | 583 comments Hello, Martin.

I am very ignorant about the history of Egypt - in ancient times I think it was possibly a matriarchy,but was it one when Cleopatra was Queen or was her power curtailed (not quite so much as a constitutional monarch, of course!)? That must determine, I suppose, how she was supposed to be, which was teasingly ambiguous, like Anthony, as though Shakespeare couldn't decide.
Cleopatra I find interesting, but assume she was created by a man who - though a genius and very advanced for his time, was of his time neverthless,in that he could in all sincerity put that behaviour from Katarina at the end of 'The Taming of the Shrew'.
I suppose he would have had certain beliefs that must have coloured his portayal of her,that she must of necessity be manipulative, cunning, vain, physically rather timid, etc and above all, terribly enticing and dangerous?
She was 'too clever for her own good' I suppose; but she at least didn't go off and marry someone else, letting both sides down...She seemed more romantic than Anthony, but at times it seemed too that she had a hard, pratical streak.
Of course, it is argued by some sources that Shakespeare's heroines (I don't know if she counts as one) suffer far less from opression and repression and are direct and gung-ho compared to, say, eighteenth century female characters (Pamela!).
Ah, a shame we don't meet Ian Charleson as the young Octavious.
I ought to pay you for the postages at the end...


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