Antony and Cleopatra - Wikipedia

Helen of Troy was said to have had ‘the face that launched a thousand ships.’ Cleopatra was not simply a beautiful and passive face, but indeed commanded navies as well as the heart of the powerful Mark Antony.

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Antony and Cleopatra: Entire Play - William Shakespeare

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Obedience and silence were very much part of the patriarchal conception of femininity. A conception to which Cleopatra refuses to adhere. When Charmian traditionally suggests that the way to gain and retain Antony's love is to 'In each thing give him way; Cross him in nothing'. Cleopatra replies, 'Thou teachest like a fool, the way to lose him'. Far from being the silent woman, Cleopatra makes her voice heard whenever she wishes, challenging and meeting challenges. She mocks Antony and quarrels with him. Challenging him with a masculine aggression when they argue - 'I would I had thine inches. Thou shouldst know/ There were a heart in Egypt'. Spirited and passionate, such displays of assertion as her physical attack on the messenger informing her of Antony's marriage to Octavia, are a far cry from the passive silent role of the feminine in patriarchal society. In passionate disbelief and anger, she draws a knife on the messenger and strikes him with her bare hands. Charmian tries to pacify her by telling her 'Good madam keep yourself within yourself', but Cleopatra escapes the bounds of self-composure and the repression of self-hood. Her reaction when she feels herself wronged is in very stark contrast to the reactions of Ophelia and Desdemona.


Cleopatra, unlike Othello and Ophelia, is the dominating force of the play in terms of theme and also her personal presence. Novy claims that Antony and Cleopatra is the only tragedy that 'glorifies woman as actor'. Through his treatment of Cleopatra, Shakespeare provides us with a 'real' woman rather than a stereotype. Velma Richmond claims further that in Cleopatra we can find Shakespeare's 'finest embracing of the feminine'. Cleopatra through the combination of sexual and political power is a force to be reckoned with.

Antony and Cleopatra concerns itself with typically distressing and grave imagery, most importantly the theme of permanent loss....
Essays and criticism on William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra - Antony And Cleopatra (Vol. 27)

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

Throughout William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, there is the dichotomy of the hard-working political life of Rome and the luxury and pleasures of Egypt....

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Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare and Dr. Barbara A. Mowat

Although Antony occasionally lapses into judging himself by the standards of the patriarchy - for example, towards the end of the play dejected and shamed by his diminished political power, he becomes jealous and irrational and claims that Cleopatra has emasculated him: 'O thy vile lady, / She has robbed me of my sword.' In the conflict between love and politics - love wins. Ultimately, Antony is not debased by his loss of power, but rather, through his love of Cleopatra envelops a manhood of stronger parameters - an 'alternative masculinity' as Woodbridge puts it. The end of the play can be seen as a tribute to love; a celebration rather than a downfall. Antony does not cease to be a valiant Roman by choosing Egypt over Rome; love over politics, but becomes vanquisher of himself in his suicide. By dying simultaneously in the Roman fashion, and with Cleopatra and for Cleopatra (he kills himself when he believes she is dead), Antony combines the two polarities which have been evident and separate throughout the play: the masculine Rome and the feminine Egypt.

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critical essays on antony and cleopatra

Besides those critics discussed in Steppat (Spevack et al., 1990), see, for more recent and thorough analyses of the Isis and Osiris myth as it relates to Antony and Cleopatra, Adelman’s Suffocating Mothers (1992)