Disappearing Act: The Role of Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra

Read, David
June 2013
Studies in Philology;Summer2013, Vol. 110 Issue 3, p562
Academic Journal
This essay explores perhaps the most unusual death scene in all of Shakespeare's plays: that of Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra, in which Enobarbus wills himself to die in the absence of any obvious physical cause. Readers have traditionally viewed this death scene as "Roman" in character, but I argue that Enobarbus's demise aligns symbolically with Cleopatra's as an instance of an easy death, and moreover a death that (following Stanley Cavell's broad argument about Shakespearean tragedy) enables the character to avoid the full weight of the catastrophe that conventionally occurs at the end of a tragic drama. Shakespeare's treatment of Enobarbus and Cleopatra offers interesting resonances with other late plays that have tragic elements but fit uneasily into any single genre.


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