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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“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.’ Amanda Mabillard tells us that, “Her (Cleopatra) voice, with which, like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another; so that there were few of the barbarian nations that she answered by an interpreter; to most of them she spoke herself, as to the Ethiopians, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Parthians, and many others, whose language she had learnt.” This shows us the extent of Cleopatra’s intelligence.

          Enobarbus is the truth teller and mirror of the play; he is the just and unbiased Roman, which allows him to reflect a true judgment. We highly value his opinion of Cleopatra, and in Act 2 Scene 2 where Shakespeare drew much inspiration from Plutarch North’s text, we see Enobarbus articulate his impression of the Queen of Egypt and this can help us to see the fascination of Cleopatra for the characters in the play. In this scene there is a lot of hyperbolic language used to describe Cleopatra which shows us how fascinating she is. “the barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, Burned on the water.” This metaphor tells us that Cleopatra is so seductive and fiery that she sets barges on fire with her amazingly seductive looks and unlimited lust. This action of water being on fire is a contradiction and it is Cleopatra transcending the impossible; this could be a reference to her capability to surpass the impossible, it is also a paradoxical statement, linking to Cleopatra’s paradoxical and contradictory personality.

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          A physical depiction of this paradox is shown in the quotations; “The winds were lovesick with them” and “Whistling to th’air; which, but for vacancy, had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too.” Shakespeare uses personification and hyperbole; even the wind and air become enthralled by her beauty. The elements come alive around Cleopatra and it is as if she controls them, giving her the status and control of a Goddess as she is much referred to. “that Venus where we see.” Cleopatra as the Goddess “Venus” shows her fascination through this status, Goddesses had all ...

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