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Playing Shakespeare’s Monarchs and Madmen

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Edited By Louis Fantasia

Playing Shakespeare’s Monarchs and Madmen is the third volume in the Peter Lang series, Playing Shakespeare’s Characters. As in the previous volumes, a broad range of contributors (actors, directors, scholars, educators, etc.) analyze the concepts of monarchy, leadership, melancholy and madness with not only references to Elizabethan and Jacobean studies, but also to Trump, Brexit, cross-gender and multi-cultural casting. What does it mean to “play the king” in the 21st century? What is the role of an “all-licensed” Fool in the age of spin? Who gets to represent the power dynamics in Shakespeare’s plays? This volume looks at the Henrys, Richards, Hamlets, Lears and various other dukes and monarchs and explores the ways in which men—and women—approach these portrayals of power and the lessons they hold for us today.

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6. Fortune’s Knave: Sex, Politics and Machiavellian Doctrine in Antony & Cleopatra (Michael Peter Bolus)

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Michael Peter Bolus

In the final Act of William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, the tempestuous Egyptian queen Cleopatra prepares to die by her own hand. In typically ostentatious fashion, she thrusts those now infamous and deadly asps to her breasts. She is, at least on one level, conceding defeat:

CLEOPATRA. My resolution’s placed, and I have nothing

Of woman in me. Now from head to foot

I am marble-constant. Now the fleeting moon

No planet is of mine. (5.2.291–294)

It is clear that she would rather die than subject herself to the indignity and ignobility of capture by the conquering Romans and the humiliating spectacle of her public shaming. But in a thrillingly peripatetic shift in perspective, she then utters words of impending triumph, seemingly convinced that she will have achieved that brand of immortality that her conquerors will not:

CLEOPATRA. Give me my robe. Put on my crown. I have

Immortal longings in me. (5.2.335–336)

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