Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare




 Topic:      Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (1 of 36), Read 105 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Friday, March 02, 2007 08:13 AM


Since I nominated this book for the CC list, I will go ahead and write a note to start off the discussion. There are lots of spoilers that follow, if you don't already know the story.


As I said before in the reminder note, this is classified (by Harold Bloom, at least) as one of Shakespeare's five great tragedies, along with MacBeth, King Lear, Hamlet and Othello. The only outside source that I have read about the book so far is Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, so, other than my own impressions, my information all comes from there. A&C appears to have been the last of these tragedies that were written.


Bloom says that "After the four high tragedies of domesticity and blood, Antony and Cleopatra breaks out into the great world of the struggle of East versus West, of dissolving vistas and innumerable scenes." I noted this because the change in scenes from country to country really surprised me. I have always had a sense of Shakespeare's dramas being in a relatively small space. Here we are in Rome, then Egypt, to Athens, then back in the blink of an eye. I can imagine that you could turn this whole story into a set design nightmare if you didn't keep it simple.


For me, Cleopatra is the most interesting character in this tale and I don't think it is just because I am a woman reading about another woman. Antony is a fading star. He knows war and seduction and that seems to be about it. Octavius Caesar is singlemindedly pursuing his ambition to rule Rome, even to the point of sacrificing his sister to Antony. But, Cleopatra changes by the instant. No one will come before her and, if they do, there will be hell to pay. She persuades Antony to enter the war by sea, then retreats which causes him to retreat and lose the battle and the war. And, yet he is so entranced by her that he never blames her. And, when she realizes that she will be paraded as one of the spoils of war in the end, she chooses to end her life herself. I can't imagine anyone actually controlling this character which seems amazing for a woman in the time in which it was written.


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (2 of 36), Read 92 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Michael Robison miker_zspider@yahoo.com

Date: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 08:04 PM


Great comments, Barb. When does the discussion begin? I'd have to read it first. I might be too late.


Michael


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (3 of 36), Read 91 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Michael Robison miker_zspider@yahoo.com

Date: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 08:21 PM


Whoops! I shoulda looked further down to see it already started.


Michael


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (4 of 36), Read 86 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 03:28 PM


Yes, it has, Michael. I'm all by my lonesome so far, but looking forward to the comments of others who said they were going to read it. Please join in when you're ready.


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (5 of 36), Read 86 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 03:44 PM


I love the passage you quoted on the other intro thread

Barb..."infinite variety" has always been such an incredible

description of our Egypt in my opinion.


I've read this one several times, I always come back to it.

Bloom's essays are very good but surprise surprise...so is

Northrop Frye's...which I shall try to find. He says that

King Lear was the play for the 20th century, and he feels

that A&C is the play for the 21st century. Hmm...


I don't remember who said that this is one of the least

likely plays to be produced...because the male character

dies and the play is really about a woman and that doesn't

sell tickets. Maybe that will inspire some Crs to grab a

chance and read this fabulous woman's story?


I don't know if many of you recall that we tried an

experiment here years ago to discuss this play over

several months. It was ol' George Healy's idea...and I

remember him pointing out that the number 3 is repeated

and significant in the play...that has always haunted me...I

wonder what it might mean?


Candy

http://gnosticminx.blogspot.com/


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (6 of 36), Read 87 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 03:46 PM


The BBc version of this play is fantastic if anyone is able to

track it down...?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_and_Cleopatra


I just noticed that helen Mirren has played Cleopatra...I

would love to see THAT!


Candy

http://gnosticminx.blogspot.com/


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (7 of 36), Read 90 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 05:22 PM


Actually, Candy, I kept meaning to copy this excerpt from Bloom which includes a wonderful comment about Helen Mirren playing Cleopatra:


Perhaps it was from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, play and character, that Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra learned their endearing trait of never listening to what anyone else says, including each other. Antony's death scene is the most hilarious instance of this, where the dying hero, making a very good end indeed, nevertheless sincerely attempts to give Cleopatra some advice, while she keeps interrupting, at one point splendidly responding to his "let me speak a little" with her "No, let me speak." Since his advice is quite bad anyway, as it has been throughout the play, this makes little difference, except that Antony, just this once, almost stops acting the part of Antony, Herculean hero, whereas Shakespeare wishes us to see that Cleopatra never stops acting the part of Celopatra. That is why it is so wonderfully difficult a role for an actress, who must act the part of Cleopatra, and also portray Cleopatra acting the part of Cleopatra. I recall the young Helen Mirren doing better with that double assignment than any other Cleopatra that I have seen.


Aren't those great comments?


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (8 of 36), Read 91 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 05:25 PM


And, Candy, I would love to read Northrup Frye's comments. I don't remember George Healey and a discussion of this play. Did it last long? I usually jump at the chance to talk Shakespeare with this group.


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (9 of 36), Read 84 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 06:53 PM


Oh gawd...and I have that Bloom book right here and have

read it...and I love Helen Mirren but I don't remember

being hit by that. Today on google I thought it was osme

movie version or soemthing.


Here is aclose up pic of Helen Mirren's purse at the Oscars

this year. I wonder if she carried it for good luck. I would

think the accolades of Bloom's would be as awesome as

winning the Oscar!


http://news.sawf.org/Fashion/34161.aspx


This book sounds good and has a photo of various actors

in the parts, including Mirren:


http://books.google.com/books?

id=Ys6fhVSBNtkC&dq=Helen+Mirren+as+Cleopatra

+image


I am trying to remember when we tried the experiment of

reading this play. George suggested a timed study. Read it

every two months, I seem to recall, for a year. We made it

about three sessions. I think I was in Vancouver...so it

must have been around 2000?


Candy

http://gnosticminx.blogspot.com/


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (10 of 36), Read 85 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 09:32 PM


I just finished Act III, so, I'll join in soon. Great play! Wouldn't want to be a messenger in ancient times.


Robt


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (11 of 36), Read 87 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Saturday, March 10, 2007 09:36 PM


Oh great, Robt, I'm glad to see you here. I thought that the part of that messenger who had to tell Cleopatra about Antony's marriage could have been played with some humor. I couldn't help imagining a Monty Python-like treatment.


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (12 of 36), Read 83 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: R Bavetta xyzrbavetta@prodigy.net

Date: Sunday, March 11, 2007 01:13 AM


I planned on a reread of A&C, but things are pretty stressful around here, and I just haven't gotten to it yet. I will. And when I do, I'll come back and reread everyone's notes.


Ruth


Voices and Reflections

Ruth Bavetta

oil on canvas 1988

42x48 inches


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (13 of 36), Read 83 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Sherry Keller shkell@mac.com

Date: Sunday, March 11, 2007 08:18 AM


I'm about half-way through my listen/read. I don't particularly like the version I downloaded from iTunes. The actors seem so intent on acting. And the voice of Caesar seems too old-sounding for the young tyrant. But for me it was better than waiting until it came through in the library. My branch didn't have a copy.


Sherry


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (14 of 36), Read 81 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Sunday, March 11, 2007 08:35 AM


I'm reading the Folger edition which I definitely need in order to understand it. Once "translated", it's a wonderful text.


Barb, the messenger/Cleopatra scenes are a hoot. I love it when later she lavishes him with praise of good judgement and gold. I can't understand why he didn't say that Octavia was wrinkled and ugly from the get go. That's just survival instinct.


Robt


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (15 of 36), Read 83 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Sunday, March 11, 2007 11:55 AM


Aren't the Folger editions great, Robt? They've been key to my understanding of Shakespeare. I've tried others but decided to stop experimenting and stick with what works for me.


Shakespeare's Antony gave the impression of an old warhorse who was better suited to a different age, that of Julius Caesar. He seemed doomed in the next generation. Would you say that of Cleopatra?


Ruth, I'll be interested in your thoughts when you get a chance to read this.


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (16 of 36), Read 85 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Sherry Keller shkell@mac.com

Date: Sunday, March 11, 2007 12:17 PM


Maybe I'm too much a stickler for logic and understanding motivations, but can anyone help me understand why, after marrying Octavia to forge an alliance with Caesar, now Antony and Caesar are at war? Does it matter? Is it just because Caesar sees him as weak and is able to be overtaken?


As an aside, Is anyone watching the second season of HBO's Rome?


Sherry


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (17 of 36), Read 77 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 01:09 PM


Sherry,


In answer to your question as to why Caesar went to war against Antony, I searched back through Act 3 and in scene 4 Antony announces to Octavia that he is going to prepare for war against Caesar in response to his anger over Caesar speaking badly about him (Antony). Antony refers to Caesar waging new wars against Pompey, so, there’s no indication that Caesar has initiated a war against Antony at this point in the play. I’m not sure who actually initiates the war between them. Antony even says to Ocatvia: “When it appears to you where this begins, turn your displeasure that way.” It seems to me that Antony is more to blame for starting war between them. Or maybe old hostilities simultaneously reignite.


If Caesar initiates the war against Antony he’s probably being ambitious. First Caesar gets rid of Pompey, then Lepidus. Only Antony remains in the way of Caesar’s sovereignty over the Roman Empire. Things really heat up between Caesar and Antony when Antony goes back to Egypt and gives various kingdoms as far north as Asia Minor to Cleopatra, and creates a coalition of the willing (I couldn’t resist) consisting of various kingdoms to fight against Caesar. When Antony hooks up (latest lingo) again with Cleopatra in Egypt that disgraces Octavia, and gives Caesar a clear motivation for war. And Antony’s giving away large portions of the Roman Empire doesn’t help either. I read that Shakespeare based much of this play on the writings of Plutarch. I wonder who Plutarch holds accountable for starting the war between Antony and Caesar.


Robt, jumbling around with history


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (18 of 36), Read 78 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 02:14 PM


My impression is that this play is about both Antony and Cleopatra, as the title suggests, rather than mostly being about Cleopatra.


Some thoughts. Antony is a passionate character who loses it, is up, is down, is all over the place. He is afflicted with lots of poor judgement, beginning with refusing to hear Caesar’s messengers in Act 1. (That being a current US administration type hubris.) Antony exhibits the down side of being the larger-than-life warrior who is valiant in battle, can eat and drink anything because he’s such a tough guy, but is not steady nor politically clever with sound judgement. A man of appetites and impulses. Like when Antony suddenly assumes that Cleopatra has betrayed him (Act 4, scene 12) when the battle against Caesar goes poorly for him. The woman he adores and has jeopardized everything for, he suddenly wants to murder. That took me aback. It’s understandable to me why Enobarus would want to desert Antony. The guy’s a ticking bomb. But then Enobarus’ subsequent remorse also makes emotional sense.


When one is fabulous, crazy is an enhancement. Both Antony and Cleopatra would have to be personally charismatic for their personas to make sense, because if one just went on their behavior in the play, their flaws are fairly dominant. Another way of saying this is that they are well suited to being played by gifted actors and would come alive on stage, perfect sponges for charisma, making their outcomes all the more tragic, and allowing the audience to sympathize with them flaws&all. One tends to root for doomed lovers anyway who have risked all for love. I like the way Caesar’s reaction is remorse when he hears of Antony’s death. It’s quite the role for an actor to fulfill.


Why does Iras die? That I didn’t understand.


Robt on a ramble


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (19 of 36), Read 75 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 06:56 PM


Oh good, Robt, Antony needs someone to talk about his role in this discussion. I've been so taken with Cleopatra that I didn't give him enough thought. I wonder which actors have been the greatest Antonys.


I thought that Enobarbus was a very interesting minor character as well. A good actor could probably do a lot with that role too.


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (20 of 36), Read 74 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Sherry Keller shkell@mac.com

Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 06:00 AM


I'm always amazed in Shakespeare how people base life and death decisions on such scant information. Thanks, Robert for all the history. (It doesn't mean I'll remember it.) The actor who plays Antony in the Rome series on HBO is pretty good. He's very rakish and handsome and sexy. When I was reading/hearing the play, I always imagined him in the role. The voices were compatible. It was an old recording, Anthony Quayle read Anthony. The end of the play is quite amazing. Robert, I think Iras was a slave, and it seems to be de rigeur for slaves to commit suicide if their masters do. It happened on the Rome series, too. I think that's taking this master thing a bit far.


Sherry


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (21 of 36), Read 76 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net

Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:12 PM


"You have been a boggler ever"

-- Antony, on Cleopatra


Good discussion.


In 3.10, Cleopatra flees the battle prematurely, and Antony turns to follow. Puzzling. Shocking, actually. Antony is brave to recklessness both before and after this moment in the play, and Cleopatra isn't exactly a shrinking violet. So, why?


This play is shot throughout with shifting identities and questions of people's 'qualities'. Cleopatra is physically mistaken for Antony at one point (hard to imagine) (1.2), one of A & C's pastimes is: 'and all alone

To-night we'll wander through the streets and note

The qualities of people.'(1.1) Antony is 'unqualitied' later,(3.11) they dress up as each other,

Caesar tells Antony 'You take from me a great part of myself' (3.2)

etc., Identity is shifting sand, and identity prismed through public and private views is a full-on sandstorm, all to confusion. A & C are constantly testing each other, unsure of whom is playing whom or if it is even play but instead a deep and true love. Cleopatra does the one thing (leave a battle) that can ultimately test Antony- and when he follows her, he divorces Rome, codes of honor, and himself, essentially. It was the only way to get truth on the table... and it was startlingly brave of Antony, a new kind of bravery, to do it. One aspect of their tragedy is that, to arrive at the truth, Antony has to put himself in a position of vulnerability he cannot sustain. A hush falls on their reconciliation after they flee the battle, a quieter, almost reverential tone in the dialogue. This was their best moment, but it can't last.


Enobarbus also pursues the calculus of love-by-abandonment, to an even worse fate. He leaves the waning Antony, and is startled by the news that Antony WINS the next battle. Enobarbus says: "I am alone the villain of the earth,

And feel I am so most. O Antony,

Thou mine of bounty, how wouldst thou have paid

My better service, when my turpitude

Thou dost so crown with gold! This blows my heart:

If swift thought break it not, a swifter mean

Shall outstrike thought: but thought will do't, I feel.

I fight against thee! No: I will go seek

Some ditch wherein to die; the foul'st best fits

My latter part of life.'


Gorgeously sad. As he dies, he says more: ' O sovereign mistress of true melancholy,

The poisonous damp of night disponge upon me,

That life, a very rebel to my will,

May hang no longer on me: throw my heart

Against the flint and hardness of my fault:

Which, being dried with grief, will break to powder,

And finish all foul thoughts. O Antony,

Nobler than my revolt is infamous,

Forgive me in thine own particular;

But let the world rank me in register

A master-leaver and a fugitive:

O Antony! O Antony!'


I believe this is supposed to throw light on what A & C are going through. Enobarbus was tricked by a turn of events. He was RIGHT to abandon Antony, tactically, because Antony does in fact wane and die. But he can't know that or feel that at the time. Events shift, opinions pivot, emotions turn-- only love can be the true pillar of the world. A & C erect a true pillar, even though they are impaled upon it.


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (22 of 36), Read 72 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 02:02 PM


I don’t know if I already said, but I just love this play.


George, that is a superb post. Love this: “Identity is shifting sand, and identity prismed through public and private views is a full-on sandstorm, all to confusion.” As Joe E. Brown would say, Ain’t it da truth. We are constantly kept emotionally imbalanced as events progress in the play and it creates such a dramatic momentum. Using the domino analogy, it’s as much an emotional tumble that knocks over the next event as do actual events, which are themselves larger than life. It’s a forward motion both character and plot driven, and like rolling down a hill, one just can’t get one’s bearings fast enough.


Another fab quote by George: “Events shift, opinions pivot, emotions turn-- only love can be the true pillar of the world. A & C erect a true pillar, even though they are impaled upon it.”


It’s true that you can’t have it all. So there Caesar is, victorious. He does great things with his victory historically and ushers in a period of peace and stability. But he never had that passionate, throw everything to the wind love—the kind you die for. I am reminded of our own cultural icons who have been Wizards of Id—puny in comparison to Antony and Cleopatra—such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. We love them. Hell, we love Anna Nicole Smith. I use we in the sense of us as a culture (don’t mean to accuse anyone here personally of such a fixation, myself excepted). These are the doomed free spirits, the Holly Go Lightlys, comets. Ah, to live like that. Maybe not actually, but vicariously through these characters. This is the aspect of this play that appeals so much to me. Not to mention the jet black eroticism of Cleopatra’s death scene when she rummages around in a basket of figs to find the asps. The love as poison image echoes loudly through the AIDS pandemic, initiated through the hedonistic promiscuity of gay men who have enacted a comet culture of death by love. As Joni Mitchell sings: love kills. Perhaps this is why this play resonates so much with me.


Robt


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (23 of 36), Read 66 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Sherry Keller shkell@mac.com

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2007 06:45 AM


What fantastic posts, George and Robert. I have never seen this play and have only read it this once, so I missed so much, especially the part where they trade identities. That asp scene was indeed erotic, Robert. I can just imagine how even just a good actress could make mincemeat of an audience with that. Even the reader on my audio was good, even though I disliked the rest of her performance.


Sherry


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (24 of 36), Read 70 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2007 09:50 AM


"Jet black eroticism", what a great way to describe that scene, Robert. I was trying to put my finger on why this time through A & C it felt more relevant to me, but your finger was faster, because the new relevance comes from what you said about the dimunition of our current self-destructive icons and acts in comparison to A & C. I also loved what you said about the fact that Caesar wins but doesn't get wounded enough by life in the winning...


The flow or dynamic of the first few scenes is interesting to me. Antony is powerfully flirtatious (is that an oxymoron?) but his stance keeps getting reality-checked by Cleo (That's nice, Antony, but what about Fulvia?) I love when she says:


'Excellent falsehood!

Why did he marry Fulvia, and not love her?

I'll seem the fool I am not; Antony

Will be himself.'


Next scene, Cleo's attendants are reality-checked by the soothsayer (along with Enobarbus's humorous clear-sightedness):


'Mine, and most of our fortunes, to-night, shall

be--drunk to bed.'


Then, Charmian tries to reality-check Cleo and inevitably fails, because Cleo is her own reality (1.3)


Then Caesar appears, and begins to contract or reduce reality down to its constituent parts with his coldly reductive realism:


'It hath been taught us from the primal state,

That he which is was wish'd until he were;

And the ebb'd man, ne'er loved till ne'er worth love,

Comes dear'd by being lack'd. This common body,

Like to a vagabond flag upon the stream,

Goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide,

To rot itself with motion.'


... for example. Maybe the secret of Caesar's ability to project himself quickly across time and space in the play, (Antony speaking of Caesar's movements):


'Is it not strange, Canidius,

That from Tarentum and Brundusium

He could so quickly cut the Ionian sea,

And take in Toryne?'


isn't just that Caesar is fast and organized, maybe he's so reductive that the world is actually SMALLER for him.


But I babble. The first scenes are interestingly constructed to flow from one type of reality check to another, each powerful, but coming one upon another like that they are like the rifling of a deck of cards, with a horrible shuffling and cutting to come...


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (25 of 36), Read 65 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Sarah Hart norp-hart@msn.com

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2007 01:28 PM


Purchased the Folger edition last night. Now let's see if I can get through it in time to join in.


Sarah


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (26 of 36), Read 63 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2007 04:41 PM


Oh, please do, Sarah. I'm inspired to start reading it again.


One interesting point is that with all the talk about eroticism between them, there is no real love scene involving Antony and Cleopatra or anyone else for that matter.


George, I love your statement that Caesar is so reductive that the world probably is smaller for him. And, welcome back! You've been missed here. Are you interested in joining in on Proust?


Barb


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (27 of 36), Read 52 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Friday, March 16, 2007 06:02 AM


Random thoughts. George quotes Cleopatra:


'Excellent falsehood!

Why did he marry Fulvia, and not love her?

I'll seem the fool I am not; Antony

Will be himself.'


Antony married Octavia and didn’t love her either. Strategy. Games.


Re: games. C: “I'll seem the fool I am not.” Cleopatra mirrors Marilyn Monroe here, too. An intelligent woman fact-gathering by playing dumb. Mata Hari comes to mind. In ACT 1, SC. 3 Cleopatra indulges in more game playing when she instructs Alexas: “If you find him [Antony] sad, say I am dancing; if in mirth, report that I am sudden sick.” Later on Cleopatra’s game playing leads to Antony’s death. Charmian and Iras regard the Soothsayer as an entertainment, as though he were meting out parlor tricks. How rude of him to come up with an unfortunate fortune and her reaction is to dismiss him for spoiling the fun. It seems that Shakespeare’s soothsayers, such as Macbeth’s witches, speak the truth. It’s no game.


I love how Antony and Cleopatra both indulge in wild reversals. Like when Cleopatra beats up the messenger and then later showers him with gold for being so astute.


If I ever have the presence of mind I’d like to recover from embarrassing tears by quoting Enobarus: “And I, an ass, am onion-eyed.”


Robt


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (28 of 36), Read 53 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Sherry Keller shkell@mac.com

Date: Friday, March 16, 2007 07:18 AM


Boy, you guys are good. Carry on.


Sherry


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (29 of 36), Read 52 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net

Date: Friday, March 16, 2007 03:13 PM


Random Response-


Let's be honest, though- if Antony knew in advance that he was going to abandon Octavia, then he would know the marriage would gain him less than nothing- which it did. I don't think HE was playing a game here- and I think that's part of Shakespeare's point. Antony married Octavia out of love alright- a love of Caesar's brotherly attempt at a truce, a love for Rome and the known ways, and a love for himself. Octavia reflects greatness on Antony, worthiness, and she is submissive (remember Cleo's

"CLEOPATRA What should I do, I do not?

CHARMIAN In each thing give him way, cross him nothing.

CLEOPATRA Thou teachest like a fool; the way to lose him.")


...I don't think Antony is game-playing here, precisely, I think his love is too centered on his own image and destiny as refracted through the blank mirrorface that is Octavia and the public overhyping/hyperventilatingly heroic traditions and customs of Greece and Rome (which Shakespeare, by the by, went to great lengths to dismantle in Coriolanus and Troilus and Cressida and we find so resurgent in the recent film 300).


Point being, Antony finds his way to a funhouse-mirror version of himself through his victories in battle and his marriage to Octavia, whereas with Cleo he finds his way to a true and matching 'other'. The question to me is: what does Cleo find her way to?


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (30 of 36), Read 41 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Saturday, March 17, 2007 09:24 AM


George,


I think we’re in agreement that Antony’s marriage to Octavia was a strategy. Agrippa, who proposes it to Antony and Caesar, presents it that way:


To hold you in perpetual amity,

To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts

With an unslipping knot, take Antony

Octavia to his wife


And Octavia by all accounts is a great catch. But it is initially not because of love for Octavia that Antony marries her.


You take issue with the idea that Antony was game playing: “If Antony knew in advance that he was going to abandon Octavia, then he would know the marriage would gain him less than nothing- which it did. I don't think HE was playing a game here….”


I agree that Antony didn’t realize that the marriage to Octavia would gain him less than nothing, but I do think he always intended to return to Cleopatra. I also think he is game playing with Octavia in Act 2, scene 3 when he says to her: “I have not kept my square, but that to come shall all be done by th’ rule.” Within minutes Antony says to himself: “I will to Egypt. And though I make this marriage for my peace, I’ th’ East my pleasure lies.” He had no intention of playing “by th’ rule.” He is playing a dangerous game with Octavia.


As to your question: what does Cleo find her way to?


As a starting point: like Antony, Cleopatra experiences that love trumps all. Power, wealth, and fame are put into perspective against the force of her love for Antony. Antony and Cleopatra echoes Romeo and Juliet with the concept that true love rivals all. I’ll have to ponder this question for more.


Robt


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (31 of 36), Read 39 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net

Date: Sunday, March 18, 2007 07:19 AM


Well Robert I can't agree or disagree when I'm so completely confused, and confused I am. Caesar is a strategizer, a calculator. Antony WAS much the same, in the play Julius Caesar, but I don't find him so here. I was leaning towards the idea that Antony lives moment to moment, almost without strategy. His considerations are mostly of himself in all his dealings with people (except Cleo, where his selfishness blinks on and off like a lighthouse beam), true, but he goes to Rome to salvage his standing and flees from Rome after speaking with a soothsayer. He seems to me to be more caroming from move to move than planning them. But there is textual evidence to the contrary. So I don't know. I guess the thing I ask myself is this: if Shakespeare was trying to represent to us an Antony who strategizes, then he must have also wanted to convey to us that Antony is, how do I put this kindly?... dumb. I find Cleo far more calculating than Antony, but THAT could just be a mirage thrown up by her mental superiority. Sigh. I started confused and ended there.



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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (32 of 36), Read 38 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Sunday, March 18, 2007 08:27 AM


George,


Your last post makes complete sense to me. Perhaps we’re having a semantical problem with the word game. I also experience Cleopatra as more calculating. Antony is impulsive. He agrees to marry Octavia on an impulse. Antony’s gaming is irrational, compartmentalized by denial and self-deceit, rife with strategies that succeeded at one time through audacity, surprise, brute force, stopping at nothing, but now are disasters of poor judgement. In the past this legendary warrior was awed and feared because few could anticipate what he was going to do, and when he did it—watch out. Now there is confusion. His enemies are both within and without. Enobarus observes Antony disintegrate right in front of him. Meltdown. Disconnect. A frightening spectacle. Miscalculating. Both A & C are miscalculating, with characteristically masculine and feminine styles. When great people f* up, it’s a sight to behold. I think Shakespeare offers much room for interpretation. Why did A & C do what they did? Insanity by reason of love.


Robt


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (33 of 36), Read 38 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net

Date: Sunday, March 18, 2007 04:01 PM


Ah ha- now I know what was bothering me! I just don't know if I'll be able to EXPLAIN it.


'Shakespeare offers much room for interpretation', you said, and I don't know why I was kicking so hard against the ambiguity, since Shakespeare was the master of it.


The movie 'The Princess Bride' has this moment in it:

Standing over Westley, the Prince speaks. "So you truly love each other, and think it might end truly happily? Well not ONE couple in a century even has that chance, no matter what the storybooks say!" He then glares into Westley's eyes as he promises "So I think no man in a century shall suffer as greatly as you will!"


...and that resonates, because we all sense that far fewer people have a chance or end up REALLY in love than we (or they) say. The funny thing is, A & C achieve this incredibly rare thing, and we all think of them as massively tragic failures.


So let me ask a dumb question...


rate these things in terms of importance:


Being famous

Being politically successful

Being someone else's true love

Being rich

Having a high social standing

Being respected in reputation


Sure, sure, I know all of them would be nice to have, but which would you choose above the others? And if you chose love, how exactly are A & C failures? Or insane? And is Shakespeare's point that achieving the highest goal (true love, hypothetically), demands the highest cost in terms of the others? And if it does, are A & C as flawed as they seem?


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (34 of 36), Read 28 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Sunday, March 18, 2007 08:49 PM


George,


In addition to your list of desirables I’ll add:


Creating great art, any medium, including literature

Making a contribution that significant impacts the world

Being stunningly beautiful

Being hilariously funny

Having great wit

Being happy

Being loved by many people

Having a longterm loving relationship with one’s parents

Having a longterm loving relationship with one’s children


Having a great love for which one would die stands toe to toe with the entire list, as far as I’m concerned. I’d say Antony and Cleopatra’a love is an enviable achievement despite their tragic outcomes.


Robt


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (35 of 36), Read 33 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net

Date: Monday, March 19, 2007 07:30 AM


Robert-


Exactly. Now, Enobarbus I picture as the stand-in for the audience, a la Horatio in Hamlet. But in this play, the lead characters shake free of our realistic collective eye when Enobarbus dies BEFORE the end, unlike Hamlet's death scene. It pushes them farther into mystery.


Speaking of mystery, consider these 2 contrasting visions:


Caesar, to Octavia


'Why have you stol'n upon us thus! You come not

Like Caesar's sister: the wife of Antony

Should have an army for an usher, and

The neighs of horse to tell of her approach

Long ere she did appear; the trees by the way

Should have borne men; and expectation fainted,

Longing for what it had not; nay, the dust

Should have ascended to the roof of heaven,

Raised by your populous troops: but you are come

A market-maid to Rome; and have prevented

The ostentation of our love, which, left unshown,

Is often left unloved; we should have met you

By sea and land; supplying every stage

With an augmented greeting.'


Enobarbus, about Cleo


'I will tell you.

The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,

Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sails, and so perfumed that

The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,

Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made

The water which they beat to follow faster,

As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,

It beggar'd all description: she did lie

In her pavilion--cloth-of-gold of tissue--

O'er-picturing that Venus where we see

The fancy outwork nature: on each side her

Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,

With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem

To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,

And what they undid did.

Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,

So many mermaids, tended her i' the eyes,

And made their bends adornings: at the helm

A seeming mermaid steers: the silken tackle

Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands,

That yarely frame the office. From the barge

A strange invisible perfume hits the sense

Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast

Her people out upon her; and Antony,

Enthroned i' the market-place, did sit alone,

Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,

Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,

And made a gap in nature.'


I'm trying to figure the difference between Caesar's romantic vision (admittedly for his own sister but what are you gonna do?) and Enobarbus's (representing us i think) so I'll come back to that but it strikes me that, in a world where love is buried under so many layers of ceremony or whatever you want to call it, it will take as much effort to break through to truth as it would to run a country...


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Topic: Antony and Cleopatra-Discussion (36 of 36), Read 12 times

Conf: Classics Corner

From: Robert Armstrong xyzrla@nac.net

Date: Thursday, March 22, 2007 12:03 PM


George,


Enobarus’ passage about Cleopatra is exquisite, where the elements themselves fall in love with her, again calling for a great actress to fill the role. But then I remember that in Shakespeare’s day Cleopatra was played by a boy. Talk about a challenge. This historical idiosyncrasy makes the lifting of the mortally wounded Antony by Cleopatra and her maids (“Help me, my women!”) more much theatrically achievable when done by boys. I get an image of a modern big budget production of A & C where a dozen delicate, diaphanously dressed female Egyptian servants are waved in and all together the women lift Antony. I think that would be very effective.


Robt


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