Antony and Cleopatra


William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra: Genre 1 key example

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Explanation and Analysis:

Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare's history plays. This genre of play takes inspiration, whether directly or indirectly, from documented historical events and the lives of historical figures. Along with tragedy and comedy, history is one of the three primary theatrical genres in western literature. History plays will often take liberties with the timeline of the events they depict. Though the various scenes in Antony and Cleopatra take place over the course of 10 years, the manner in which the narrative of Shakespeare's play unfolds does not suggest this. The distorted timescale of Antony and Cleopatra suggests more otherworldly elements are at play; this will not, indeed, be a simple recounting of the facts, but rather an interpretation of a complex relationship and its fallout.

History plays are not always explicit in their commentary, nor do they always communicate clear lessons through the historical events they cover. Nevertheless, Shakespeare and his contemporaries would infuse their dramatic writing with meaning, even if this meaning was often subtle. Antony and Cleopatra could be interpreted as a didactic tale utilizing historical events to comment on the pitfalls of hedonism. Undoubtedly, however, there is more at play: Cleopatra is no simple villain, and Antony is no pure victim.