Shapiro, Michael
January 1982
Modern Language Review;Jan1982, Vol. 77 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
This article presents information about the play "Antony and Cleopatra," written by William Shakespeare. "Antony and Cleopatra" has traditionally held a place slightly below the four great tragedies: "Hamlet," "Othello," "King Lear," and "Macbeth." Modern critics have remarked upon the play's fragmentary structure, referring not so much to its multitude of short scenes, as to its rapidly shifting perspectives, apparent discontinuities of character and action, and framing of the protagonists with commentary by minor figures. While these or similar disjunctive features occur in the other four tragedies, as well as elsewhere in Shakespeare's plays, in none of them does one find the narrative line so jagged, the protagonists' motivations so ambiguous, and one's attitudes toward them so unstable. Whether critics regard these qualities as defects or as sources of the play's unique greatness may finally be a matter for exploration by students of critical theory and historians of taste.


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