Antony and Cleopatra


William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra: Style 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Act 3, Scene 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Stylistically, Antony and Cleopatra differs in some ways from Shakespeare's other historical plays: scenes shift quite rapidly between settings that are very far apart in geographical distance, a fact critiqued by Ben Johnson and other contemporaries of Shakespeare. While the play utilizes blank verse, a form of unrhymed iambic pentameter commonly used in written dramas during this time period, Antony and Cleopatra is less conventional in its use of this traditional style, featuring more complex poetic and prosaic lines interspersed with more typical verse.

In addition to this, the text is laden with figurative language, particularly in passages where characters describe the indulgent behavior of Antony and Cleopatra, or in which Antony and Cleopatra are themselves talking. As distinguished from the other characters in the play, this effect gives Antony and Cleopatra a god-like remove from the world in which they operate, shrouding them in metaphor and foreshadowing. Take, for instance, the following passage from Act 3, Scene 10:

SCARUS: She once being loof'd,
The noble ruin of her magic, Antony,
Claps on his sea-wing, and, like a doting mallard,
Leaving the fight in height, flies after her:
I never saw an action of such shame;
Experience, manhood, honour, ne'er before
Did violate so itself.

In this passage, Scarus speaks about Antony fleeing from battle, describing him as the "noble ruin of [Cleopatra's] magic." Cleopatra's power over Antony is thus depicted as supernatural, as if she is a creature from beyond the mortal realm.