Antony and Cleopatra

William Shakespeare

This was my second read through of Antony and Cleopatra. I read the play for the first time my freshman year in an Intro to Shakespeare course, and at that time it seemed to me that Cleo was an awesome, autonomous woman. She, I thought, was painted as the manipulator of Antony, Caesar before him, and Pompey before them both. I imagined that her power declined only because fell in love with Antony, and that Octavius must be both gay and cruel to treat her as he does.

On a second read through, I’m less sure of the queen’s power. She is certainly in control in the first Act, but as soon as Antony leaves she’s a mess, and she seems to flip flop sides in every other scene from Act 3 onwards. Additionally, I’m more interested in the rude mechanicals of the play. Why do the various attendants of royalty get so much dialogue, and what are we to make of their various relationships with power?

I’m not confident if I like this play as much as I thought I did, but I am pretty confident that Antony is an idiot through and through, and this play has too many damned scenes.