The tragic in Antony and Cleopatra Essays

The tragic in Antony and Cleopatra Essays

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The tragic in Antony and Cleopatra

His captain's heart,
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst
The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper
And is become the bellows and the fan
To cool a gipsy's lust.

Antony and Cleopatra seems to have a special place in Shakespeare's works because it is at a crossroad between two types of play. It clearly belongs to what are generally called the 'Roman' plays, along with Coriolanus and Julius Caesar. But it is also considered a tragedy. The importance of history in the play cannot be denied, especially where it is compared to Shakespeare's 'great' tragedies such as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. But one might wonder what is specifically tragic in Antony and Cleopatra, and what can be said about the tragic in a play which is so different from the other tragedies. It is clear that the notion of 'tragic' in the everyday sense is not necessarily the same as the notion of 'tragedy', which is a philosophical notion whose definition depends on which philosophic system one takes into account. In this article I shall take the term tragic in its literary and dramatic sense and try to define its main characteristics.

Taking into account a wide corpus of plays, from Antiquity as well as from France and England, we can detect several constant features that can define the tragic. A tragedy usually shows a character that is outstanding by his rank or/and inner abilities, falling into misfortune as a result of fate, and because of an error or a weakness for which he is not really responsible. Several tragic elements can be detected in Antony and Cleopatra. First, we find characters that have high rank because they are outstanding figures; we also see a tragic situation because from the be...


... middle of paper ...


...es. In fact the tragic might be more prominent in this hybrid play (both historical play and tragedy) Antony and Cleopatra, than it is in some of Shakespeare's 'great tragedies' such as Othello.

Bibliography

Angel-Perez, Elisabeth. 1997. Le théâtre Anglais. Paris: Hachette
Anouilh, Jean. 1946. Antigone, Paris: Editions de la Table Ronde
Biet, Christian. 1997. La tragédie. Paris: Armand Colin
Cuddon, J. A . 1992. The Penguin Dictionary Of Literary Terms And Literary Theory. Penguin USA

Racine, Jean. 1674. Préface of Iphigénie en Aulide. Editions l'Intégrale
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Première Préface of Andromaque. Editions l'Intégrale
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Préface of Phèdre. Editions l'Intégrale
Suhamy, Henri (directed by). 2000. Antony and Cleopatra. Paris: Ellipses

1. Article published in Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Henri Suhamy
The tragic in Antony and Cleopatra

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