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Comparative Commentary - Enobarbus' discourse in Act II Scene 2 of Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" & TS. Eliot's poem "A Game of Chess"

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Comparative Commentary: Enobarbus' discourse in Act II Scene 2 of Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" & TS. Eliot's poem "A Game of Chess" The particularity about these two passages is that although written centuries apart, they reflect each other through language, subject matter and universality. The verse "The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne, glowed on the marble" from TS. Eliot's poem A Game of Chess has long been acknowledged as a direct allusion to Enobarbus' description of the genuine and natural Cleopatra in Act II Scene 2 of Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra. Likewise, I believe that the verse "O'erpicturing that Venus where we see the fancy outwork nature," from Shakespeare's play can be interpreted as being an inspiration to TS. Eliot's creation of the materialistic and artificial woman in his poem. Indeed, a major similarity between these two passages is that although they are both essentially about a woman, in neither passage is the woman really described. It is rather the woman's milieu and her effect on her surroundings that are described in great depth and detail. ...read more.


The word "Chair" in Eliot's poem is capitalized, therefore emphasized. It acts as an anti-climax since it is the first major difference the reader falls upon during his reading of the text. In Shakespeare's poem, it is a barge that Cleopatra fills like a throne, whereas in Eliot's poem it is merely a chair that the woman fills. This makes Eliot's character come across as far less extravagant and magnanimous as Cleopatra, whom Shakespeare portrays as being so great that she fills her barge as is if it were a throne, thus making both the barge and Eliot's character seem tiny in comparison to her majesty's grandeur. Also, in comparison with a chair "glowing on the marble," the mystical image of Cleopatra's barge "burning on the water" adds to Cleopatra's magnificence. The senses, more precisely sight and odor, and the natural elements, fire and water, seem to be the key themes of these two passages. They both contribute to the description of the atmosphere and setting, which in turn are a description of the character. ...read more.


In Shakespeare's play, the In his poem, A game of Chess it seems as if TS. Eliot is using the character of Cleopatra already invented by Shakespeare as a tool to create his own imaginary female character. Instead of starting from nothing, Eliot started with the idea of Cleopatra- a stunning, enchanting and very powerful woman, who he distorts or bends out of shape in a very subtle way in order to fabricate the woman about whom he writes. This supports the idea that all writing, all artistic creation, is in one way or another influenced by another. A totally different approach can also be taken when comparing these two passages. A different interpretation of these poems could be that they are a chronological reversal of the stereotypical view of a woman's role in society. Although this may seem like a far-fetched idea, it is clear that in contrast with Eliot's character, Cleopatra is a very powerful woman. Although Shakespeare's play was written centuries before TS Eliot's, the XVth century, a time during which women had absolutely no power in society, Cleopatra definitely is more powerful an Nadia El Tayar English A1 Higher March 18, 2003 Mr. Heery ...read more.

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