Friday, May 5, 2017

Classics Review: Anthony and Cleopatra

Hey Guys, I have decided to come out with a brand new series that I think you all will enjoy. This is a year-long series, for now, I might extend it at some point, who really knows. I am itching to read more classic literature. You can follow the series here.

Presenting the classic play of Anthony and Cleopatra, by Willam Shakespeare. Please note I am not at all claiming to an expert or even worthy of critiquing him, I am simply going to share my view on this very interesting and fascinating play. I feel that this is one that is often overlooked, and very rarely read.

A little bit of a description of the tragedy, as explained by Goodreads, Anthony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Life of Marcus Antonius and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra's suicide. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony's fellow triumviri and the future first emperor of Rome. The tragedy is a Roman play characterized by swift, panoramic shifts in geographical locations and in registers, alternating between sensual, imaginative Alexandria and the more pragmatic, austere Rome.

Many consider the role of Cleopatra in this play one of the most complex female roles in Shakespeare's work.[1] She is frequently vain and histrionic, provoking an audience almost to scorn; at the same time, Shakespeare's efforts invest both her and Antony with tragic grandeur. These contradictory features have led to famously divided critical responses

And onto my humble thoughts about this wonderful tragedy, that is such a masterpiece. 

Wow, this one was so good I don't even know where to begin. It is such a mysterious play, on that will spark your interest and fuel your imagination. A play that is full of drama, foolishness, pettiness, and desire. A story that is weaved so beautifully it has withstood the test of time.

The protagonists in this story are quite hard to describe. They are both noble, narcotic, and entirely self rightous. They are never really short of petty or foolish in their actions and their webs of deceit. It is hard for me to determine if Anthony and Cleopatra are my favorite characters that Shakespeare develops, but they are easily in the top five.  I also believe that one of the reasons we find Cleopatra so fascinating is that Shakespeare creates this deep complexity to her. In his work, she is vain and self-centered. She is scorn, but also tragic and grandeur. It's almost as Shakespeare wanted his audience to be torn about her, due to her contradictory behaviors.

They play itself is a masterpiece and entirely complex. There is a tone that is consistently maintained throughout the play. Set in a complete ironic and heroic tone, it's almost paradoxical in thinking. The language involved is breathe taking, and it shifts naturally and almost seamlessly from something that is imagery to full monologues, that at points are adorned with beautiful humor. I am beginning to believe Shakespeare created the art of sounding casual all the while talking about a topic that is very complex. I also believe what is most interesting about the language is that this play is one of his most modern, and also witty. There is a ton of humor that is so ingrained and effortless.

The issues of lovers is such a central theme of this tragic play. I find that part of this is due to the larger than life characters, and semi-obnoxious storyline. There is such trial and tribulation between their love, you almost think, it can never work. There is so much privilege to these characters. For me they were my favorite part of the play.

Honestly, for me, Shakespeare has done it again. Just such a wonderful piece of literature. Overall I believe this is something everyone must read once. Even if you think you will hate Shakespeare or have no hope of understanding, I urge you to give it a chance, it might just surprise you. 

Links for purchase: Amazon // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository // Abe Books // Thrift Books // Better World Books 

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