Fanda is hosting one of the greatest "challenges" for the end of the year: aptly named "Let's read plays", it offers one classic play per month to enrich our knowledge of this great genre. It starts now in November and goes on for a yearlong celebration!
November is Shakespeare Tragedy month, and I chose to read Antony and Cleopatra. I've seen the Hollywood version of it, with E. Taylor and R. Burton (I assume this is also the more famous interpretation), but I've always wondered how much the excitement and ups and downs in the film were because of this couple, or whether they were depicted in the play as well...
Well, for beginners, the storyline is more or less the same (I really don't like it when big studios change the plot for the sake of the audience's acceptance). We find ourselves in Egypt, where Antony is living a decadent life with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, away from his home in Rome, his wife and from all trouble. But trouble will find him, when he's informed of his wife's death. He regards this death as his main fault in life, and he decides to go back to Rome and behave...
|Antony and Cleopatra|
Cleopatra, on the other hand, is depicted like a true megaira. Displaying extreme theatrical manners, she is the queen and she's over the whole world (of the Mediterrenean, at least). Everyone is her subject, and, while I don't doubt she had feelings for Antony, her behaviour is questionable to say the least. She deserts him twice while in battle with Caesar, only to pronounce her love for Antony at the very end of the play (whether or not because of extreme circumstances, again, I'm not convinced). But, we must never forget, she's the most powerful woman of them all: considered highly intelligent, Cleopatra used her charms to rise to power and remain there. Whoever dared question her actions, was simply eliminated... I did enjoy her powerful character, and Shakespeare did her justice in this play.
Antony and Cleopatra was a pleasant surprise for me -- yes, it is the romantic story of a couple in love and in betrayal, but it's all the more a story about the clash of powers, the old vs. the new empire and the survival of the fittest, the complexity of different civilisations. An exciting play, it kept my interest vivid up to the end.
(Did I leave out anything? Why yes, the actual battles! Sorry, I found them boring...)