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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: June ::
Re: Cleopatra's Retreat; Light and Heat
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0487.  Thursday, 2 June 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 01 Jun 1994 11:56:58 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0480  Teaching *Ant.*
 
(2)     From:   Nick Clary <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 01 Jun 1994 11:45:06 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Heat and light in speeches
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Jun 1994 11:56:58 -0300
Subject: 5.0480  Teaching *Ant.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0480  Teaching *Ant.*
 
Dear David,
 
You ask why Cleopatra pulls away at Antioch.  I'm not really sure, but I have a
feeling that it has to do with balance of power, and her position as a widow.
 
Widows (I'm told) had a position of some freedom in early modern society,
falling in the interstices (so to speak) between positions as daughters or
wives in which they lost their independence to men.  No doubt there are some
good feminists on the list who can tell me where this originates, and how I'm
perverting it in my repetition.
 
Anyway, this curious borderline position only exists if Antony is held at a
slight distance.  If he actually wins and becomes emperor, he'll no longer have
to rely on her for support; she'll be able to be recognized as his queen, but
will hold a subordinate position as his vassal.  If he actually loses, of
course, it's equally game over.  Cleopatra must maintain a balance of power
between her and Antony in order to maintain her independent power of action.
 
The idea of a balance, not coincidentally, is also suggested by the relation of
Octavius and Antony--the empire only functions if both remain strong.  When
Antony neglects his duty, the empire almost falls to Pompey, and has to be
taken over by Octavius, filling a vaccuum, as it were.  The empire, like the
relationship, has its ideal structure when neither Antony nor Octavius rules,
but they both maintain a dynamic balance.
 
Anyway, that my $0.02 worth.
        Cheerio,
                Sean Lawrence
                
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nick Clary <
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Date:           Wednesday, 01 Jun 1994 11:45:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Heat and light in speeches
 
When Ophelia insists on the honorableness of Hamlet's love for her, noting
that he "hath given countenance to is speech...with almost all the holy vows
of heaven," her father lectures her:
 
        Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know,
        When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
        Lends the tongue vows. These blazes, daughter,
        Giving more light than heat, extinct in both
        Even in their promise, as it is a-making,
        You must not take for fire.
 
I wonder why he speaks so tropically here?  Can't he be more frank to a
daughter whom he has just advised: "Think yourself a baby"?
 
Nick Clary
 

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