(2012) #43 review: Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra



199 pages

Published in 1623

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:



Last March, I read Cleopatra’s Daughter, by Michelle Moran, in which we meet Cleopatra herself and her husband, as well as her tragic ending. So it was interesting to have Shakespeare’s perspective on this tormenting part of history.

I definitely prefer Shakespeare’s tragedies to comedies, at least in reading. I liked the way he presented the characters’ conflicting emotions, as well as the love between the two main protagonists.
Octavius Cesar and the Roman powers are definitely not presented positively.
The interaction between the themes of love, power, and death is fascinating. The ending though, was a bit too close for me to Romeo and Juliet’s.

After reading this play, a blogger mentioned to me John Dryden’s All For Love, which is based on the same historical characters: I loved it very very much! I found the poetry very flowing, and sometimes so funny. This was the first time I read something by Dryden. Nice discovery!


Our separation so abides and flies
that thou, residing here, goes yet with me,
and I, hence fleeting, here remain with thee.
End of Act 1, Scene 3


Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The play was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives 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 characterised by swift, panoramic shifts in geographical locations and in registers, alternating between sensual, imaginative Alexandria and the more pragmatic, austere Rome. [wikipedia]


William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon” (or simply “The Bard”). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway, who bore him three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592 he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of the playing company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1590 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the sixteenth century. Next he wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest examples in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime, and in 1623, two of his former theatrical colleagues published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s.

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the nineteenth century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare’s genius, and the Victorians hero-worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called “bardolatry”. In the twentieth century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are consistently performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.




14 thoughts on “(2012) #43 review: Antony and Cleopatra

  1. As Roman history is one of my favourite topics, this is a play that I really need to read. I would like to find out whether Shakespeare’s play is true to the real events. I applaud you for reading a play of his every month!


  2. It is based on Plutarch’s chronicles but when you compare his version with Shakespeare you see clearly the dramatic genius of the latter. A good example is the scene where one character describes Cleopatra sailing down the river in her barge.


    • Thanks, I had not read Plutarch’s version. I may have a look at it, though I’m first going to try Dryden’s version, All For Love, recommended also by another blogger!
      I’m now following your educated blog through RSS feed. I saw you don’t like Science fiction, and you like books where you can really connect with the characters. Have you ever read Mary Doria Russell? Her book The Sparrow, is science-fiction, and her writing is superb, her characters so real the main hero of the Sparrow has not left me since I read this book many years ago. I highly suggest you look at it. If you read it, read also its sequel The Children of God, which offers a slightly more positive view of humanity.
      Looking forward to your review of Bring Up The Bodies, which I thoroughly enjoyed


      • I confess I have never heard of Russell – I will add to my list of ‘under consideration’.Probably not one that will rise to the top any day soon though since I am just about to start a degree module on children’s literature so will have my head buried in the likes of Treasure Island and Little Women for the next few months. Thanks for the idea though


  3. I havent yet read this one, though I’ve read Dryden’s play of the exact same name. May I suggest you try that one some time? It’s been a long while since I read it, but recall being quite blown away by his portrayal of these characters.


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