Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

Title: Antony and Cleopatra
Author: William Shakespeare
Genre: Classics / Plays
First published: 1623

Rating: 7 out of 10

This Shakespeare play tells the famous love story of Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra VII. Their countries, the crumbling kingdom of Egypt and the rising, powerful kingdom of Rome, are at war, and relations are hostile. Despite all this, Antony and Cleopatra, who should have been enemies, are in love. Caesar is beginning to take desperate measures in order to lure Antony back to his homeland, where they need him as a general.

This play contained a lot of interesting motives, with the love story between enemies as the most noticeable, of course. Caesar's many efforts to direct Antony's love back to Rome were also interesting - after the man had slighted him, insulted him, and defied him so many times, Caesar remains hopeful, and continues his attempts to reclaim his best general. Besides being in need of a strong commander for his war, Caesar obviously also loves Antony as a son or brother.
Cleopatra was also interesting, and one of those characters who you can't quite predict (besides knowing the story beforehand, that is). She is at times hard and cool, at other times warm. Cruel and kind, angry and happy. With Antony, her mind and moods change like the wind. I wondered, exasperated at times, how he could possibly put up with her. However, Antony seems to view this as evidence of how passionate Cleopatra is, how unique, and how mysterious she is. Antony is fascinated with her, and would have been no matter what.

Like many hopeless romances that cannot possibly end well, this one doesn't. The scene where Antony flees from battle to follow Cleopatra was a sad one. On one hand, his ultimate, absolute devotion to her was touching. Being a soldier and a warrior was what he had been trained to do for all his life. Undoubtedly, he dreamed of one day being a general. He knows nothing else, and he has worked for nothing else. He will have had men in his charge on other ships, probably friends, perhaps men he grew up with. Yet he leaves them, to follow Cleopatra's ship. It was a terrible choice that had tragic consequences, one that was neither right nor wrong.
Though he does not regret his love for Cleopatra, Antony acknowledges after his desertion from battle that he betrayed his men and himself.

A tragic Shakespearean romance.