Category Archives: Shakespeare

Bros before hos

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.

Text as object

I am revisiting Antony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare is an author I know I should like (or at least pretend to), but I find studying the text a little like listening to Kanye’s Otis without the Otis. I read it in 1991 for school and saw a great production by STC with Marcus Graham and Sandy Gore. I downloaded the BBC Audio book this time around and the production values were amazing. If you ever want to know what the pinnacle of audio book production can and should be, download this version.

Now, here’s the bit where I say something controversial. I don’t think the text should be the primary source for study of plays. It was never the author’s intention for audiences to pore over a page. I have been listening to the audio book on my walk to work each day and have been on the verge of tears on arrival. It is so powerful, and let me tell you, it’s hard to write a pregnant pause or an ironic inflection into written text.

It’s worth making the distinction about what text is. I am starting to feel that text is an object, as much as canvas and paint are objects, or a baritone saxophone and manuscripts are objects. Do we need a better definition? Should we define text studies as utilitarian message-making with words, symbols and language? Unlike with the visual arts or music, there doesn’t seem to have been an avant-garde movement in text. Are we fetishising the book in the digital age? And then are we fetishizing text itself? I want to know what you think.

Image from here.