What is Antony and Cleopatra about? Who is Cleopatra? How does Cleopatra beguile Antony? Why does Cleopatra call Antony "Herculean"? What does Antony mean to Caesar? Why does Caesar sacrifice his sister? What does Caesar feel for his sister? Why does Caesar get so angry with his sister? How is Cleopatra's theatre different from Caesar's? Why does Shakespeare make so much of Enobarbus? How do you earn "a place in the story"? What's special about the play's language? What happens to Antony after Actium? Is Cleopatra's death too beautiful? Does it still make sense to think of the play as a tragedy? "If we had to burn all Shakespeare's plays bar one - luckily we don't - I'd save Antony and Cleopatra," said W. H. Auden. No other play has a heroine like Cleopatra, the legendary Queen of the East who, feared and adored in equal measure, casts a spell over Antony and turns him into her sex-slave. In this new study the eminent Shakespearean scholar Adrian Poole explains why this play is both so special and so different from the four commonly regarded as Shakespeare's greatest tragedies: Hamlet, King Lear, Othello and Macbeth.
Poole shows that while Shakespeare is dramatising the most famous love affair in the ancient world, the playwright's handling of sex and politics is strikingly modern.