Monday, February 4, 2013

Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra (No Fear Shakespeare)Description: Antony and Cleopatra centres around the soldier and noble prince Mark Antony's enthralment with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, and the tumultuous relationship which ensues and ultimately ends in tragedy. - Taken From Amazon

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Shakespeare really has a thing about having people commit suicide. In a play about war and love, the only on stage deaths are suicides. There are six in total. If that doesn't get your attention then I don't know what will!

Antony and Cleopatra is what happens when love and war collide in a spectacular division of loyalty. The desire to love and be loved verses the desire for honour and ultimate power. We're given two sides of the coin. In Egypt we have a world of luxury, excess, and two rulers punch-drunk on passion. In Rome, we have rigid wars being fought my rigid people who are attempting to expand the great Roman Empire. We watch (or in my case listen and read) as things fall apart and tragedy befalls everyone. 

For this play I was lucky enough to have an audio book to listen along with as I read the text. I feel like this made all the difference in my enjoyment. Although I enjoy reading Shakespeare's words all by themselves, Antony and Cleopatra is a very dense play with a lot of characters that you have to keep straight. Who is in Rome? Who is in Egypt? Who works for whom? Which side is this person on? Having "BBC Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra" to guide my reading along with the text in the No Fear Shakespeare book was amazing experience wise. I actually was reading entranced for a full two hours straight as I finished off the play. That right there is incredible considering the material.   

I particularly enjoyed the No Fear Shakespeare edition for reading because of the great formatting. Here we have Shakespeare's original words on one side of the page and a plain English adaptation just opposite. Although I really dislike modern English "translations" of Shakespeare because they're so often abused by people who don't really want to read anything Shakespeare actually wrote, in the case of this book I do appreciate having something there that provides such extensive context. It is also formatted in a way that you can completely ignore it if you want. The original text is easy to read and the translation is non-disruptive to the flow of the play. 

In the case of Antony and Cleopatra context within the play is important. I stress that there is a lot of politics and battles going on underneath all the inter-personal character conflicts. Knowing who is who and what side they are on is very key. If I had known what I was getting into I probably would have been scared off from reading this and stuck with something more familiar. However, although the complexity is very complex, the simple moments really made this play wonderful to read.

Cleopatra and everything that takes place in Egypt is just so amazing. Just the descriptions characters give of Egypt and the Queen are so good that when you are forced to leave Egypt to listen to some stuffy political Romans all you want to do is get back to Cleopatra's over-the-top dramatics. I mean, this is where the audio book really comes into play because when you can hear her become completely enraged or when her voice softens into sweetness it's really enthralling.

Giving Antony and Cleopatra a rating is harder then I thought it would be. On one hand, I really did enjoy the experience of it! On the other, it does drag at some parts and if I was simply reading the play and not also listening to it l I know I would not have been as interested. My hat is off to all the audio players from "BBC Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra" for their performances! For a play about grand passion and grand defeats, although it didn't astound me, I did quite enjoy it.

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