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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Cleopatra and Antony
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1155.  Saturday, 15 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Nov 1997 09:36:31 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1147  Re: Cleopatra

[2]     From:   Kristine Batey <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 Nov 1997 09:39:44 -0600
        Subj:   Cleo Defended


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Friday, 14 Nov 1997 09:36:31 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1147  Re: Cleopatra; Love
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1147  Re: Cleopatra; Love

I must respectfully disagree-vehemently-with Andy White's comment that
A&C is "not as well written" as _All for Love_.  AfL is, to be sure,
about as good a Restoration tragedy as there is (I could never work up
much interest in _Venice Preserv'd_, although the scholarly
powers-that-be say I should), more coherent (or monolithic, depending on
one's point of view) in its way, certainly more neoclassical in
structure and characterization than A&C.  But I find it difficult to
regard these characteristics as inherent strengths.  The very scope of
A&C is what fascinates me: the way it trods unheedingly on all those
neo-Aristotelian conventions, yet manages to present a unified aesthetic
sensibility.

Twenty years ago I saw the two plays performed on successive nights at
the Old Vic.  AfL got much the better production (the company was also
doing _Hamlet_, and that was where the Shakespearean energy was
channeled), and I had only standing-room for A&C, but A&C was still the
better experience: Shakespeare's characters and plot alike were
diminished rather than focused by Dryden's "regularization."  I have
since taught the two plays in juxtaposition several times, and I have
yet to have a student-even those who (as I was at their age) are
determined to de-mythologize Shakespeare-who professed to preferring
Dryden.  So Andy's comments interest me: I'd like to hear more about why
he finds AfL the superior play.  I doubt that I'll agree with the
conclusion, but I may well grant much of the evidence.

Finally, two questions, one semi-facetious, the other serious:

Does anyone want to dispute my claim to being the only American to have
seen two different John Dryden plays performed by two different
companies within a 48 hour period?

Has anyone suggested A&C in particular as a structural antecedent for
Sturm und Drang?

Rick Jones

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristine Batey <
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Date:           Friday, 14 Nov 1997 09:39:44 -0600
Subject:        Cleo Defended

>After completing my Master's thesis on Antony and Cleopatra (Immortal
>Longings: Voluntary Death in A& C-a real page turner!) I have to beg to
>differ with the definition of Cleopatra as wicked woman who used her
>wiles for political selfish ends. I have come to be a great admirer of
>Cleo . . .

My only published Shakespeare paper was on A&C, discussing the play's
theme of overripeness. I, too, became a confirmed Cleopatra fan after
writing about the play. C is so brimful of life, and intelligence, and
sexuality, and intrigue-how could she accept being humiliated and
limited? C's death is no more suicide than the biblical Samson's: she's
far above and beyond her would-be captors.

> Why should we think that she would not
>choose death with dignity in the Roman tradition as her final statement
>to the Roman world?

Right!

>Lest we forget-much  of what we readily know of Cleopatra was written by
>the victors, and they are known for telling history to suit themselves.

Kristine Batey
 

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