Antony and Cleopatra

Shakespeare's Elusive Cleopatra 12th Grade

Of Shakespearean representations of women, it is perhaps the inexhaustible character of Cleopatra that is the most elusive of classification, which seems fitting given Antony and Cleopatra’s own defiance of dramatic genre with its tragic, comedic and historical elements. Shakespeare explores the paradoxical and constantly mutable world in which we live through this play and through the quicksilver Cleopatra herself, a woman of “infinite variety”. While she appears for much of the first act as an archetypal enchantress, politically astute and manipulative of Antony, forays into a more human Cleopatra hinder the ability to label her character as a mere wanton whore or harlot queen of the East. “My salad days / When I was green in judgement, cold in blood” may seem an uncharacteristic utterance of Cleopatra given its air of wistful regret. Cleopatra appears to be mourning her loss of innocence in becoming a leader and bewitcher of men, yet such introspection is infrequent in Antony and Cleopatra. Furthermore, the lack of asides and soliloquies makes this play stand out from the oeuvre of Shakespeare, and is perhaps indicative of the playwright’s shift towards realism in his later years.

As part of this increasing inclination to...

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