William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra Essay

William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra Essay

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William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra


“Heaven help the American-born boy with a talent for ballet”
– Camille Paglia

The prim and proper women and the strong and strapping men are no match for Shakespeare’s haze of character’s muddled together in Antony and Cleopatra. As always Shakespeare delivers a luminary cast of individuals that deviate from the socially accepted gender roles. As the audience works its way through the fierce genesis to the catastrophic resolution, it is made more than apparent that lines are being crossed all over society’s conformist board of gender specific expectations.

The character that was most amplified in this context was the stunning Cleopatra. Less like a lady and more like a warrior, the audience was witness to this Egyptian queen beginning her cameo with a barrage of games she endlessly threw Antony’s way in a sly attempt to win his affections. “Nay, pray you seek no color for your going, but bid farewell and go” (1.3.33-34). Cleopatra occasionally showed signs of her female side through bouts of the play; however the majority of her presence was swarming with an aura of resiliency and strength. Other characters even mentioned her with such traits in mind; for example, Caesar proclaimed “[Lepidus] is not more manlike than Cleopatra” (1.3.5-6). Her strength was defined most in her beauty; “she makes hungry where most she satisfies; for vildest things become themselves in her” (2.2.236-237). However, it was also present in her behavior. Cleopatra was a meek woman by no means. She stood up for the things she believed in. When upset, she presented her shrewish side. “Hence, Horrible Villian, or I’ll spurn thine eyes like balls before me; I’ll unhair thy head,...


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...e 6, Enobarbus and Menas vocally agreed upon the lying and seduction methods of the female population. In Act 3, Scene 12, Caesar prattled on about the inherently weaker side of women. In some cases it was even considered an insult that the men might be compared to women. “For shame, transform us not to women” (4.2.35).

In Antony and Cleopatra, the important point one must recognize is not the battles present both in love and war, but the toe that is continuously slide across the line which Shakespeare always felt inclined to cross. There were no prototypical male or female protagonists in Shakespeare’s world. It is a factor that should always be acknowledged when stewing over this brilliant playwright’s work. Boundaries were meant to be crossed, and Shakespeare made his belief just as apparent in the sloshing of gender roles in Antony and Cleopatra.

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