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How does Shakespeare explore the relationship between man and woman in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’? Examine how both a Jacobean audience and a contemporary audience would respond to these relationships

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How does Shakespeare explore the relationship between man and woman in 'Antony and Cleopatra'? Examine how both a Jacobean audience and a contemporary audience would respond to these relationships The interesting thing about the play 'Antony and Cleopatra' is that it touches on issues that are as relevant now as they were in Jacobean times. The issues of forbidden love, of honour and privilege, of the right to give everything up for the one you love. Modern films pull in thousands of pounds at the box office dealing with these subjects, many of which are pathetically inferior to Shakespeare's play. They fail to inject his passion, his intensity or his wit and yet Shakespeare is much overlooked today. Keeping this in mind, I intend to examine how the relationship between the two sexes is explored by Shakespeare and how he makes the play vigorous and enthralling by manipulating this relationship. Also I hope to discover how relevant 'Antony and Cleopatra' is to the modern audience and how, if it is somewhat shocking and ground-breaking in today's society, must it have been received in Jacobean times. The basic relationship between man and woman in the play is, of course, the affair of Antony and Cleopatra. This is rightly so, for none of the other dalliances between the sexes are as varied and complex as theirs. ...read more.


She is beautiful and virtuous and everything Antony needs in a wife. But he cannot and will not love her. He will 'to his Egyptian dish again'- he cannot get enough of Cleopatra. Enobarbus is a useful tool in the play, as he provides us with an inside running commentary. He is known for speaking the truth and does so when describing Cleopatra. "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety" Octavia may be virtuous and beautiful and charming but Cleopatra is exciting and enchanting and enthralling. She is the only woman ever to grip Antony's heart and not let go, she is his match and because of this there is never going to be another woman for him, nor, consequently, will she ever be able to do without him. In Elizabeth Wurtzel's 'Bitch' she says of Cleopatra "her charisma came from a deeper well within, then her weapon is her allure". Cleopatra, using her metaphorical net of charm and glamour and allure, caught Antony and stopped his escape. In the Jacobean era, Antony and Cleopatra must have been shocking. The thought that a woman could have that kind of control over a Triumvir, a man of explosive power and privilege, was outrageous. ...read more.


She so lovelorn, she remarks she will send messages every day or 'unpeople Egypt'. And in the end, of course, she kills herself because Antony is dead. I think this adds a certain vulnerability to Cleopatra's character- it makes her seems less harsh, less manipulative. "Go to the fellow, good Alexas bid him Report the features of Octavia: her years, Her inclination, let him not leave out, The colour of her hair. Bring me word quickly." We gain a little understanding as to why she is the way she is, why she resorts to such dirty tricks to woo Antony. She is extremely weak underneath her toughened exterior, which is why she can't just have Antony love her- he has to be completely defeated by her. Thus she fits well into the 'Jacobean hero' role, tying in with her masculine role in the relationship. Thus, 'Antony and Cleopatra' is still as relevant today as it was then because until women have reached the 'better' stage, Cleopatra will always be a template. 'Antony and Cleopatra' is many things but it basely a love story and concentrates on the repercussions of love. Shakespeare uses the basic relationship between man and woman and creates a story so brilliant that it has lasted to this day, where it still has an affect on the audience. At the start of the play Antony proclaims to his love Cleopatra, "We stand up peerless' and I believe he is right. ...read more.

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