Antony and Cleopatra (Wordsworth Classics)

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9781853260759: Antony and Cleopatra (Wordsworth Classics)
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Edited, introduced and annotated by Cedric Watts, Research Professor of English, University of Sussex.

Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies: a spectacular, widely-ranging drama of love and war, passion and politics. Antony is divided between the responsibilities of imperial power and the intensities of his sexual relationship with Cleopatra. She, variously generous and ruthless, loving and jealous, petulant and majestic, emerges as Shakespeare's most complex depiction of a woman:

'Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety.'

Unsurpassed in sumptous eloquence and powerful characterisation, Anthony and Cleopatra deservedly retains its popularity in the theatre. Its insights into the corruptions of power and the ambiguities of desire remain timely.

This volume is part of the Wordsworth Classics' Shakespeare Series, in which each volume has been edited by Cedric Watts.

Readers wishing to know more of Cedric Watts' work should buy his 'Shakespeare Puzzles', published by PublishNation (ISBN 978-1-291-66410-2), available from Amazon (both in printed and Kindle editions) and through all good bookshops.

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Review:

Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, and one of the finest, and most poetic of all the high Shakespearean tragedies. Written between 1606 and 1607, it draws on the Roman historian Plutarch and his account of the collapse of the Roman Republic and the birth of the empire under Octavius Caesar, son of Julius. This imperial struggle for political power between Octavius, Lepidus, Pompey and Mark Antony provides the backdrop for the play's extraordinary evocation of the tempestuous love of Antony for Cleopatra, his "Egyptian dish".

The play cuts back and forth between the cold, calculating realpolitik of imperial Rome, and the sensuous, erotic world of Egypt and Cleopatra's luxurious and hedonistic court. Yet what is most memorable about the play is its remarkably poetic language; its lush image of Cleopatra in her barge, "like a burnished throne / Burned on the water", and "beggared all description", and its erotic fusion of images of sex and death which find their ultimate culmination in the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra in the final scenes of the play. A notoriously elusive play for both critics and theatre directors alike, Antony and Cleopatra's fascination with questions of race, sex, death, power and politics makes it one of the most compelling of all of Shakespeare's plays. However, the stage is undoubtedly held by Cleopatra, and Enobarbus' attempt to explain her fascination, as powerful and evocative today as ever: "Age cannot wither her, Nor custom stale her infinite variety".--Jerry Brotton

From the Back Cover:

The queen of the Nile meets her match in Mark Antony, and the lovers destroy each other – yet triumph in ruin – in this great romantic tragedy. The characterisation is subtle, the word music elaborately varied, and the construction swift and intricate. A great cast does it justice.

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