Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

William McMahon, Hoyt Bowen, Dorothy McMahon

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In reading or seeing Antony and Cleopatra, several clear dualities emerge. The first is the polarity between Egypt and Rome as different settings for the action. Rome is cold, mechanical, rational, and businesslike, whereas Egypt is lush, erotic, exotic, and langourous. Antony is torn between the two worlds, and this split of loyalty and interest helps to make the second duality of the play, that of the personalities and attitudes of the main characters. Antony and Cleopatra are both seen in double perspective--as lustful, self-gratifying sinners and as lovers in a truly transcendent sense of love. Both perspectives are important to the play, and the tension between them is never entirely resolved. Finally, the tone of the play is neither purely tragic nor purely comic, but is a mixture of both. Antony and Cleopatra was written just before the period of the great tragi-comic romances, and may be seen as the first of these, or a transition piece between tragedy and tragi-comedy, rather than as a pure tragedy.

These three polarities, Rome-Egypt, Antony and Cleopatra as lustful epicures vs. Antony and Cleopatra the world's greatest lovers, and the mixture of tragedy and comedy, form the framework of Antony and Cleopatra and make it one of the richest and most varied of plays.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles