The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Act I, Scene v

Enter Cleopatra, Charmian, Iras, and Mardian.

In a moment the subdued Roman monochrome gives way to an entrance alive with color and laughter again. Here are lovely women, sometimes singing, sometimes dancing, often barefoot, clothed—sometimes only scantily— with flowery silken raiment, and a Eunuch softly playing a stringed instrument. Even more unlike the last scene: these people are fond of each other, massage each other, murmur happily together. It is warm again: one of her company will wave a fan over Cleopatra. No hint of drinking.

This is again a woman’s world. Except for the servile Alexas, and the messenger to come, we would not know men functioned in this world until we meet the treasurer, Seleucus, in act 5. Unlike the Roman world, where we have met men against men, even fiercely, here we meet fusions of interests and caring, women for women. To the Romans, where war is the priority, women will be almost incidental; here the women share joy. But they are also vitally interested in men and manliness.

Our concern for Cleopatra was kept alive in Octavius’s diatribe; now we meet her again. She has been seen here in criticism as bored and listless, in a scene of indolence, with nothing to do but write to Anthony and receive messages about him. What Shakespeare has her actively do, a Yea feels, is express her love in a building movement, arching it forward to her next more intense step in 2.5; while endearing her even more to us. After the linear mode of the earlier scenes, all pointing to action, the mode here is contextual, building on the developing tensions in the characters.*

*The terms linear and contextual, particularly apt for this play, seem self-explanatory, but for a full explanation, see my essay, “A Metaphor for Dramatic Form.” Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism 7 (1958): 174–81. (Reprinted in The Adventures of a Shakespeare Scholar, 311–18.) Briefly: the linear mode moves “from a beginning through a chain of chronological sequences toward an end…. Every important speech or action is an arrow pointing to a next speech or action…. Thus Shakespeare builds his scenes step by step: words, sounds, ideas, emotions, physical actions, introspections all thrust forward.” The contextual mode adds breadth to this central scaffolding. It explores the identity and inner life of the various characters. “What happens is important because of what happens in [the central character], what happens in the others, the meaning of what happens, the language and spectacle. These broad scarves braid about the central line of the play, and the whole unrolls in a wide, firm

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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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