Antony and Cleopatra

Stoic Constancy in Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra is a play of conflicting values and paradoxical ideologies. Its central dynamic is the Roman/ Egyptian dichotomy, with each pole representing a web of associated values and attributes. Egypt is variously associated with "the passions," fertility, flux and change, whilst Rome represents reason, heroism, endurance and the political sphere.

Shakespeare's singular presentation of Roman history in Antony and Cleopatra is informed by his knowledge of Roman and Greek philosophy and is influenced by the Renaissance revival of such material. Stoicism is one such strain of ancient philosophy which excited renewed interest during the Renaissance, and which clearly influenced Shakespeare's conception of Roman civilisation. Amongst the main proponents of Stoicism were Zeno, Seneca, Cicero and Epictetus. It was a philosophy advocating virtuous moral conduct, detachment from the passions and indifference to the changeability of fortune. As Geoffrey Miles proposes in his book Shakespeare and the Constant Romans the concept of constancy was an integral aspect to the Stoic philosophy . Constancy had two main definitions according to the Stoics: consistency, especially to one's true nature, and...

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