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Cleopatra's timeless fascination exists for the characters of the play, for Shakespeare's public and ourselves as a modern audience. - How do you respond to this statement from your reading of the play?

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Introduction

"O Sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful piece of work" Enobarbus Act 1 Scene 2 Cleopatra's timeless fascination exists for the characters of the play, for Shakespeare's public and ourselves as a modern audience. - How do you respond to this statement from your reading of the play? Shakespeare's plays all have universal themes incorporated within the play such as love, death and jealousy that audiences throughout history would have enjoyed and empathised with. In 'Antony and Cleopatra;' I think Shakespeare has used these universal themes in the play, but he has also created a universal fascination in the character of Cleopatra. I plan to explore why she is fascinating to all audiences and the characters of the play and to decide whether I am ensnared and fascinated by Cleopatra, and also to look at the statement as a limited, dated and untrue hyperbolic description of Cleopatra. Has the modern audience and myself have ended this timeless fascination; as she represents nothing but an egotistical, dominatrix who sells her body to most powerful men she meets and we have tired of this aging woman only interested in self preservation. Cleopatra was a lusty woman; she had a high sex drive and she had control over the men she chose to love. Her unparalleled beauty, intelligence, lust and presence affected the characters in the play, the Jacobean audiences and she still fascinates the modern audience who see the play 'Antony and Cleopatra.' ...read more.

Middle

It is also supports her bewitching qualities, because the Romans might hate her, yet this does not mean they are not fascinated by her. An example of this is in the opening of the play, when the Roman Philo calls Cleopatra a, "gypsy" and a "strumpet" but he also says, "behold and see" and in the production of the play I have seen starring Janet Suzeman we see the Romans stand and stare at Cleopatra, despising her but obviously subconsciously fascinated, as they stand and watch her. The society Shakespeare lived in was; in the upper classes educated and cultured; but the lower classes were extremely poor and uneducated. They lived in overcrowded houses, they had no knowledge of hygiene and disease was rampant. To go and watch a Shakespeare play was a form of escapism for his audiences. They escaped into another world and would be fascinated by the plays Shakespeare produced. Cleopatra was an especially fascinating character for the Jacobean audience because she was controversial, shocking and challenging. The Jacobean people were predominantly devout Catholics and Protestants, they would have practiced monogamy. Adultery and more than one sexual partner would have been disgraceful. Women were by far the lesser sex; however this status was acknowledged, they may have seen it as customary and it was generally accepted by most women. The audiences would have been very shocked by the behaviour of Cleopatra; she represented an opposite of how their women acted; she had a lot of control and her relationships with the several men she courted were all sexual. ...read more.

Conclusion

For the modern audience, a culture fascinated by history, is it not what Cleopatra represents that fascinates us? Is she iconic rather than fascinating, as she comes from a place we are so interested in? Egypt was a great civilization that built great pyramids and amazing statues. Television, film and novels have all used Egypt to create a more interesting production. Is she maybe the link between ancient Egypt and modern society and it is not her but what she represents that we are fascinated in? Cleopatra is fascinating to a modern audience as she represents the modern woman; she is in control of her life and the men she interacts with, this was not a achievable status until the late twentieth century yet Cleopatra had this status and power thousands of years previously. "O Sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful piece of work" Cleopatra was worshipped and loved by the characters of the play. She was a cultural shock and an alarming but fascinating character for the contemporary audience of Shakespeare, Cleopatra represents what a modern woman is; enticing, in command and confident. She fascinates all men, as one of the most beautiful woman in history. I personally agree that Cleopatra is a timeless fascination; she in herself has a widespread enthralment that can appeal to all audiences. She is controversial, paradoxical, beautiful, intelligent and lusty. These parts of her persona help Cleopatra to be the most discussed and debated character of Shakespeare's plays. Stephen Kyle 1,625 ...read more.

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