Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 388. Thursday, 24 June 1993.
From: Michael Best <
Date: Wednesday, 23 Jun 93 17:25:01 PDT
On Cleopatra and the attitudes of traditional critics, who see it as
the tragedy of Antony and wonder why there is a fifth act, there is
a wonderfully witty and intelligent article as long ago as 1976, by
L. T. Fitz, "Egyptian Queens and Male Reviewers: Sexist Attitudes in
*Antony and Cleopatra* Criticism," Shakespeare Quarterly. If I recall
correctly, even the footnotes in this article well repay reading.
Al Cacicedo says some good things about the bemused and threatened
attitudes of the Romans in the play -- attitudes that have often been
adopted wholly by those writing on it. One way of approaching the
conflicting value systems of Rome and Alexandria is to take the
opening speeches by Philo and Demetrius as articulating a thesis that
is systematically subverted, or at least questioned, by the rest of
I also find it interesting to explore the ways that Shakespeare leaves
so many issues open, when you compare his version with Plutarch/North.
Critics often run to Plutarch to reassure themselves that Cleo did
in fact persuade Antony to fight by sea, where Shakespeare has Antony
the first to announce it, and Cleopatra simply backing him up -- Antony
having earlier dared Pompey to fight by sea as well.
. . . on the other Cleo (Laine), the orchestra would be her husband's
-- Johnny Dankworth's -- and the two have collaborated on a whole
recording, Shakespeare and All That Jazz.