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Antony And Cleopatra By William Shakespeare

2487 words - 10 pages

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra opens with a five-scene act, four
of which takes place in Egypt and one in Rome. In the opening act of
the play, the audience is introduced to several characters, some of
which play a prominent role throughout the play and others that only
appear in the opening act and remain anonymous to the audience in
spite of their crucial theatrical function. The opening act provides a
stir of varying tones and moods which allow the audience to be
emotionally involved with the characters on stage.

The play opens with a serious tone when the audience witness two Roman
soldiers expressing their extreme distaste towards the conduct of
their general. This mood, however, shifts to a lighter one immediately
when we get our first encounter with Antony and Cleopatra on stage.
Scene Two contrasts the incredible gaiety and liveliness of
Cleopatra's court with a dour, though not humorless, Soothsayer. The
seriousness of the prophesies presented by soothsayer is overshadowed
by Charmian and Iras’s continuous bawdy jokes. , it serves to depict
the undercurrents of the play – something tragic is bound to happen
but the characters are completely ignorant of that. The audience,
however, would be aware of the implications of the prophesies and that
allows much anticipation throughout the play. The serious tone of the
play is later strengthened when we see Antony very disturbed by news
from Rome and finally Caesar and Lepidus’s acknowledgement of the
military and political threats Rome is facing. From there, the tone
changes again in the final scene of the opening act where we see
Cleopatra thinking about Antony. Much of the humour in the play comes
from the Egyptian court where we hear continuous jokes with sexual
connotations.

Shakespeare’s juxtaposition of scenes in Antony and Cleopatra causes
major and rapid changes in time and geographical location as seen in
the opening act itself where Shakespeare brings us from Egypt to Rome
and to Egypt again in scene one to three. The play is not loosely
structured and the vast shifts in setting is a key staging aspect and
essentially theatrical. It would be a considerable challenge during
production that properties and costumes used to distinguish one
scene-setting from another does nothing to impede the fluidity of
stage movement. Emphasis on the distance between the geographical
poles that cover the play is done through the use of messengers. They
appear in four out of five scenes in the opening act of the play and
play an important role in reminding the audience that distances are
vast and that the play’s setting embraces most of the Mediterranean
world. The messengers play an important theatrical function as they
symbolize the authority of those whom they serve. Their reports...

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