Antony and Cleopatra

Content Group

Antony and Cleopatra, Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra, 1890

This play has rarely achieved the status of the other four major tragedies of Shakespeare's maturity, possibly because its tone is so diversified: there is a sustained note of comedy in much of the dialogue, and Cleopatra's character deliberately defies tragic decorum. Critics are intensely divided over whether to censure or admire the role. Cleopatra's mercurial temperament has exceeded the reach of many distinguished actresses. (Since the eighteenth century, famous portrayals include those by Elizabeth YoungeHarriet Elizabeth DiddearAdelaide Ellen Biddies, Helena ModjeskaSarah Bernhardt, and Maggie Smith). It is hard to imagine an Elizabethan boy actor in the part, despite the play's overt reference to such a performance (5.2.216-23). The rapidity of scene changes is almost cinematic and perhaps the most successful performance was that directed by Trevor Nunn for the Royal Shakespeare Company and adapted for television in 1975 by John Scoffield with Janet Suzman as Cleopatra, in which the naturalistic dialogue is well sustained by all the characters, including Richard Johnson as Antony and Patrick Stewart as Enobarbus.

Cleopatra, Paramount, 1934
Antony and Cleopatra, His Majesty's Theatre, 1906
Antony and Cleopatra, Theda Bara as Cleopatra, 1917
Antony and Cleopatra, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1999
Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare's Globe, 1999
Antony and Cleopatra, Robert L. Downing as Antony
Antony and Cleopatra, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1972
Antony and Cleopatra, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1982
Antony and Cleopatra, Drury Lane Theatre, 1873
Antony and Cleopatra, His Majesty's Theatre, 1906
Antony and Cleopatra, His Majesty's Theatre, 1906
Antony and Cleopatra, Mrs. Charles Calvert as Cleopatra, 1875
Antony and Cleopatra, Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra, 1890
Antony and Cleopatra: Lily Langtry as Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra: Cleopatra in 1972 Film
Antony and Cleopatra: Royal Shakespeare Company, 1999



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Antony and Cleopatra at Talkin' Broadway.

Zink, Abbey. "The Lady Was a Dame: Gender Performance and the Role of Cleopatra in the 1999 RSC and Globe Productions of Antony and Cleopatra." Shakespeare Bulletin 18, no. 1 (2000): 20-23.

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