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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 Nadia El Tayar                English A1 Higher

March 18, 2003                                                                                                        Mr. Heery

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. This makes the setting and the atmosphere of the two passages key to the understanding of whom each woman is, since they are the reader’s only source of information concerning her. Therefore, instead of being directly and explicitly described, each woman gradually and implicitly takes shape in the reader’s mind as the details of her effects and influences on her surroundings are revealed.

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        Language plays an extremely important role in the comparison of these two passages since, after all, it is the language, the words chosen by the poet that create the divergences and contrasts between the two women. Upon first glimpse, the reader is manipulated into thinking that the language used in both passages is very similar. This is due to the recurrence and simultaneous use of some of the words in the two passages. However, upon careful reading one realizes that although the same words may be used in both poems, it is the way each word is chosen, placed ...

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