Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

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The opposition can be seen, too, in the very weave of the imagery, which contrasts the ‘wide arch’ of Rome with the ‘dungy earth’ of Egypt.

1 ‘dotage’ – implies silliness, infatuation, even feeble-mindedness from old age. The tone is insulting and disgusted.

2 ‘o’erflows the measure’ – first example of water imagery. Antony is seen to be caught up by a flood (of emotions) that cannot be kept in check – as should be the case in a true Roman.

4 ‘Mars’ – the virile Roman god of war (who nonetheless had, himself, a debilitating affair with Venus).

6 ‘a tawny front’ – Cleopatra is dark-skinned, something Shakespeare perhaps associates with sensuality and passion, given his poetic descriptions of the ‘Dark Lady’ of the Sonnets. From Philo, the remark is racist.

8 ‘temper’ – first appearance of this important concept. The word derives from temperance and signifies self-restraint.

10 ‘gipsy’s’ – The gipsies were thought to have their origin in Egypt (hence the name). The description familiarises the audience with a picture of Cleopatra as an exotic, a bohemian outsider.

12 ‘the triple pillar of the world’ – stern Roman imagery. It refers to the triumvirate.

17 ‘new heaven, new earth’ – God’s promise to man in the Book of Revelation. Antony and Cleopatra’s love is seen on a cosmic scale.

21 ‘the scarce-bearded Caesar’ – implies a lack of virility compared to Antony, as well as youth.

33-7 ‘Let Rome...to do thus ( embracing )’ – As well as the obvious sense of Antony wallowing in his pleasures, in the audience’s imagination, stone (‘the wide arch’) is set against water; ‘Kingdoms’ against ‘dungy earth’ (which naturally suggests fertility in a still largely agricultural society).

53 ‘Tonight we’ll wander through the streets’ – for all their ‘divinity,’ Antony and Cleopatra still show frequently that they have the common touch.

57 ‘sometimes when he is not Antony’ – Philo provides the ‘Roman’ commentary here. Antony’s name represents an ideal of stern, virtuous conduct in which duty must be fulfilled.

60 ‘the common liar’ – people are gossiping.

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William Shakespeare