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"A better title for this play would be 'Cleopatra and Antony' because Cleopatra is a dominant character throughout. Indeed, it might simply be called 'Cleopatra'". How far do you agree? How would a Jacobean audience react to her strength of character?

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Introduction

"A better title for this play would be 'Cleopatra and Antony' because Cleopatra is a dominant character throughout. Indeed, it might simply be called 'Cleopatra'". How far do you agree? How would a Jacobean audience react to her strength of character? Shakespeare structured 'Antony and Cleopatra' to mirror a historic love affair between two great characters of the past. This love affair develops into the most explosive and destructive love story, both Antony and Cleopatra finding themselves trapped between passion and logic, they both prove their limitless love by the ultimate sacrifices they make, Antony's downfall at the hands of Caesar and Cleopatra losing her beloved Egypt, both dying a 'noble' death as the last tragedy of them all. Cleopatra's dominancy can be proved by how even when not in a scene she holds this incredible power over what is happening, for example, in Act Two, Scene Two Cleopatra's determination to fight beside Antony causes Antony to clash with Caesar and Enobarbus, Enobarbus proclaiming "Would we had all such wives, that the men might go to wars with the women!" emphasising how much control she had but is she central to the play? ...read more.

Middle

Antony is seen "To cool a gipsy's lust." This would indicate to the audience of the impact of Cleopatra on others. The power of language here is used by Shakespeare to deliberately implant the ideas of trickery, sorcery, promiscuity and dishonesty, therefore it is not surprising that a Jacobean audience would see Cleopatra as a witch and distrust her as it was in the nature of the Jacobean audience to be suspicious of women like Cleopatra as it was still widely believed that witches existed. Antony regards Cleopatra as central to his life but it is only her dominant character and unusual actions as an Egyptian woman, such as skipping down the streets of Egypt, which demands the attention of the audience so much, leaving them feeling that this play is centred on Cleopatra, her effect on Antony serves to be his downfall, and therefore Cleopatra being central to this play not Antony. When this issue is considered further, it becomes more apparent that without Antony, her character would pale into insignificance, "The crown o'th'earth doth melt" when without Antony. She had been the lover of both Caesar and Pompey before Antony, although these links are rarely referred to by Shakespeare, her past is intertwined with her present, but it is the love between her and Antony which makes both vulnerable. ...read more.

Conclusion

it would swing the emphasis away from the effect she has on Antony to a more general view of men and her life. Manipulation would be the focus of the whole play and, the story, if still intended to represent a part of history which interested Shakespeare, would be based on Cleopatra's fortune and whether her fate was of her own making. Although Cleopatra would be seen as deserving the central role of the play, the play does not revolve around her but Antony. It would change the fact that the play revolves around the fate of Rome and Antony being decided by love to a lighter-hearted look at the strength of sexuality women possess. The title of a play is an important decision for a playwright, Shakespeare will have used the title to sum up the play and therefore if he had believed that his play was all about Cleopatra, he would have named this play Cleopatra. The consequence of calling the play 'Cleopatra and Antony' would be that it was not taken seriously. This play is not a comedy and it would have lost credibility to a Jacobean audience. Whether Cleopatra is overpoweringly dominant in the play and also her true intentions remains with the audience to decide. Gemma Hill 2601/05/2007 ...read more.

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