Shakespeare’s ‘ Antony And Cleopatra ’ is one of the five greatest tragedies, the other four being, ‘ Macbeth ’, ‘ Othello’, ‘ Hamlet’ and ‘ King Lear ’. It is also considered a mature love story and a more prominent attempt than his previous bid ‘ Romeo And Juliet’. The play has provided tremendous scope to explore multiple disciplines, which include politics, geography, history, psychology, among others. Therefore, it has a cross-cultural and multi-dimensional appeal towards it. But the present essay endeavours to enlighten upon its dominant thematic aspect, which it argues to be love overall and, in which Shakespeare himself found something so great and surpassing, that he tried to pen down its unsolicited grandeur into one of his eloquent poetic tragedies.
To begin at the beginning, let’s have an elaborate study of the complex characters that govern the dramatic action. The character is regarded as less important than muthos or plot, according to the Aristotlean dictum. The character, though works under a given situation or background, yet there is reason to believe that characters in Shakespeare’s tragedies would not have been the same, had they not been endowed with some intrinsic majesty, grace and imminence, and was able to distinguish themselves from the rest.
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, should be regarded as the first subject of study, as she has been present in the action for quite some time, as early as her association with Julius Caesar. Therefore, it is essential to analyze her character and interests. Cleopatra VII is remembered by history as the most notable queen and pharaoh of Egypt. There have been many other rulers who bore the name, but it was only Cleopatra VII who distinguished herself above the rest and lived on to be the greatest queen who brought Egypt to the attention of the world (See Glenn and Castle). Cleopatra is said to be born of her father Ptolemy XII and mother Cleopatra VI, supposedly the king’s sister or concubine. Cleopatra was married at a young age to her brother Ptolemy XIII, as was customary in Egypt, i.e. to marry one’s siblings. But Cleopatra overturned tradition to proclaim herself as the sole leader and ruler of Egypt. She was highly beautiful, educated and a shrewd politician. She used her charm and wit to seduce Julius Caesar, who had come to Egypt in pursuit of Pompey. She smuggled herself into Caesar’s camp by hiding inside a carpet, that was presented as a gift to Caesar. Caesar was overwhelmed and quickly surrendered himself up to the queen. He married her and they even had a love child named Caesarion. Cleopatra’s seduction of Mark Antony was a lot effortless. She simply sat in her barge of gold, with servants rowing silver oars, dressed as the goddess Venus. It was her mystique and charm that paralysed Antony and totally took him unguarded. He instantly fell in love with the queen. Together they got married, as polygamy was allowed in Egypt and also bore children. Cleopatra had also this dark side to her character, which was looked down upon by the Romans. She had perceptibly earned an infamous and notorious reputation in her lifetime. She was viewed as a harlot, a libidinous and licentious woman, who was rumoured to have poisoned her brothers, exercised all forms of cruelty, and used her charms to ensnare and entrap mighty men, who acted as puppets to her purpose. Especially Antony was criticized by his fellow men for being “a whore’s fool” (See Zakri, 2012). But there is reason to believe that the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra bore some grace, so as to have emerged victorious, unblemished and unscathed, despite all odds.
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- Dr.hc Puja Chakraberty (Author), 2015, Understanding William Shakespeare's "Antony And Cleopatra", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/292994