I think categorising Antony and Cleopatra as a love story is just plain wrong. I think it’s the story of the first recorded pussy-whipping. Else why would Shakespeare have introduced the character like this?
“His captains’ heart
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst
The buckes on his breast, reneges all temper
And is become the bellows and the fan
To cool a gipsy’s lust..
you shall see him transformed
Into a strumpet’s fool” (91).
We really get the measure of what kind of soldier Antony was, before Cleopatra entranced him, with the passage by Caesar describing Antony eating “strange flesh / Which some did die to look upon” (118) and drinking horse piss, the trials of war “borne like a soldier” (118).
With classic texts, it’s easy to think of contemporary examples. Their longevity can be ascribed to their continuing relevance. Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni anyone? One can easily imagine Cesarean speeches in the Parlement français about the French leader and the ageing fashion queen. Other parallels can be drawn between ex-cougar Demi Moore and Ashton ‘straight-to-DVD’ Kutcher. Their tale has had its own tragic ending. Iterations with variations shall appear whilst-ever we have tabloids, but until asp-nipping and sword-flopping become fashionable retro suicide methods, there will only be one Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakespeare, William. 1995. Antony and Cleopatra. London: Methuen.
Image uploaded by Pinterest user Roberta.