The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Cleopatra

Cleopatra enters, a suitable companion for Anthony: for she is the greatest woman in the world. Shakespeare, envisioning her, almost certainly had in mind the company’s seasoned actor of female parts, whose presence and personality could match the almost impossible demands of the role. With Cleopatra’s power and majesty of a Queen, and the love, vanity, and jealousies of a great woman, must be fused an intense personal charm and magnetism that— as we will see—draws the admiration of all within reach, including all the Romans who approach her, from Enobarbus to Dolabella, even to Caesar. Shakespeare surrounds her, as he does Anthony, with an adoring ensemble: her court glows about her when she is there, her maids would—will—die for her. And she will be as caring toward them.

The playwright fashioned clues from his source to draw audiences instantly to Cleopatra. Plutarch told Shakespeare how Anthony, in Parthia, sent to her a messenger, who reported “her beauty, the excellent grace and sweetness of her tongue … ” She was “at the age when a woman’s beauty is at the prime, and she also of best judgement.” Before meeting Anthony, Plutarch tells us, “she furnished herself with a world of gifts, store of gold and silver, and of riches and other sumptuous ornaments … But yet she carried nothing with her wherein she trusted more than in herself, and in the charms and inchauntment of her passing beauty and grace.” (Plutarch’s “inchauntment” is so much more magic—haunting—a word than its modern translation that I intend to keep it!)

Plutarch also provided Shakespeare with stage directions for Cleopatra’s manner:

so sweet was her company and conversation, that a man could not possibly but be
taken. And besides her beauty, the good grace she had to talk and discourse, her
courteous nature that tempered her words & deeds, was a spur that pricked to the
quick. Furthermore, besides all these, her voice and words were marvellous pleas-
ant: for her tongue was an instrument of music … the which she easily turned to any
language that pleased her.

Shakespeare’s own stage direction for Cleopatra compresses Plutarch’s. At the end of 1.1, Anthony, amused, touched, and frustrated by her loving, anxious teasing, will say admiringly, returning her love:

-80-

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The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgments 17
  • Introduction 21
  • Act One 39
  • Act I, Scene I 41
  • Anthony 70
  • Cleopatra 80
  • Act I, Scene II 86
  • Act I, Scene III 104
  • Octavius 118
  • Act I, Scene IV 123
  • Act I, Scene V 133
  • Act Two 143
  • Act II, Scene I 145
  • Act II, Scene II 151
  • Act 2, Scene III 174
  • Act II, Scene IV 180
  • Act II, Scene V 181
  • Act 2, Scene VI 197
  • Act II, Scene VII 207
  • Act Three 225
  • Act III, Scene I 227
  • Act III, Scene II 231
  • Act III, Scene III 239
  • Act III, Scene IV 246
  • Act III, Scene V 251
  • Act III, Scene VI 254
  • Act III, Scene VII 262
  • Act III, Scenes VIII, IX, and X 272
  • Act III, Scene XI 278
  • Act III, Scene XII 288
  • Act III, Scene XIII 293
  • Act Four 315
  • Act IV, Scene I 317
  • Act IV, Scene II 320
  • Act IV, Scene III 326
  • Act IV, Scene IV 329
  • Act IV, Scene V 335
  • Act IV, Scene VI 337
  • Act IV, Scene VII 341
  • Act IV, Scene VIII 344
  • Act IV, Scene IX 349
  • Act IV, Scenes X, XI, XII, and XIII 352
  • Act IV, Scene XIV 362
  • Act IV, Scene XV 379
  • Act Five 393
  • Act V, Scene I 395
  • Act V, Scene II 403
  • Is Anthony and Cleopatra a Tragedy? 473
  • Epilogue 480
  • A Note on the Historical Cleopatra 69 Bc–30 BC 482
  • Critical and Theatrical Bibliographies 489
  • Critical Bibliography 491
  • Theatrical Bibliography 532
  • Index 597
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