Antony and Cleopatra

Adelman, Janet. “Making Defect Perfection: Imagining Male Bounty in Timon of Athens and Antony and Cleopatra.” Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet to the Tempest. London. Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group. 1992. 165-192.

Adelman’s chapter focuses on the battle between Caesar and Cleopatra–Rome and Egypt—that winds up becoming a battle between the scarcity of men and the bounty of women, because Caesar rules his scarce city as a domain, while Egypt is an extension of Cleopatra’s self, thereby making Egypt a space of freedom rather than suffocation; and since masculinity’s point of origin is maternal body, Antony ignores Rome’s idea that Cleopatra is the cause for weakness, leaves Caesar’s limited male economy behind, and joins Cleopatra in Egypt, for she is the site of Antony’s heroic masculinity because of her role as his armor, and her dream image of him creates a strengthened version of his heroic masculinity. Adelman uses quotes from Antony and Cleopatra, as well as historicism, to show how women were viewed and used in Rome and Egypt, and through comparisons of other Shakespearean plays, she proves that Shakespeare’s different works use women as negative influences on men’s masculinities, while Antony is never manlier than when armed with Cleopatra. Through her use of comparisons between Rome and Egypt, Adelman proves valid points regarding the treatment of women and their affect on men, more specifically the revitalizing strength Cleopatra invokes in Antony; however, Adelman’s descriptions of Cleopatra as “armor” and her “longing” for him sometimes depict her as a sexualized tool of Antony’s, when really she acts as more of an equal to him, something Caesar has the most trouble understanding. Though at first read the play seems to revolve around the rivalry between Caesar and Antony, the real rivalry is that between Caesar and Cleopatra, and their struggle over control for Antony and the rewards they can grant him with, whether it be the leadership over the male dominated city of Rome Caesar can provide, or Cleopatra’s boundless offer of love and masculinity in Egypt, thereby proving the equality of women with the likes of men by having the founder of the Roman Empire face off with Egypt’s most well-known queen. (J.Debois, November 2013)

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