Even though this is a play about the famed romance of Antony and Cleopatra, I found it a bit dry compared to some of Shakespeare’s other tragedies, especially considering this is his sequel to Julius Caesar. It is a good play with lots of lusty insinuations, as in Julius Caesar
, but it’s still missing something…that one character or relationship that brings a sense of honest emotion to the play. The romance between Antony and Cleopatra is flat and reads more like a satire than the epic star-crossed love one thinks of when considering the history of these famous lovers. To me, the play felt more like a tragicomedy than a true tragedy.
It was almost amusing watching these two powerhouse characters “conquered” by their love for each other. Cleopatra is overly dramatic, with explosive emotions that shift like the wind. At one moment she loves her messenger, offering him jewels, gold and provinces, the next moment she lunges at him with a dagger. ;) Antony—this famous warrior godlike in his abilities is also made helpless by his emotions. His suicide scene is pathetically amusing—a botched job. My favorite line in the play is the response the Clown gives to Cleopatra as he hands her the basket containing the asp: “Yes, forsooth: I wish you joy of the worm.”—such a loaded statement. ;)
As a side note, I’m conflicted about Octavius. On the one hand, he’s portrayed as the good guy, offering redemption and expressing true sadness and grief over the loss of both Antony and Cleopatra. Yet, he’s also crafty, going against the truce he makes with Pompey, creating the war that ultimately leads to Antony and Cleopatra’s deaths. Though it does make for an interesting ironic conclusion, given that he’s the last man standing.
I also didn’t like how the play lacks scenes with Octavia, Antony’s wife. Her presence for the most part is wasted here. I think the play would have been much better if Shakespeare drew out her character, which would have given the play the extra emotional element and conflict that’s currently lacking.