A Spectator’s Role
Chapter Twelve: Antony and Cleopatra: Comical/Historical/Tragical
← 144 | 145 → CHAPTER TWELVE
Antony and Cleopatra: Comical/Historical/Tragical
If Shakespeare matched Lope de Vega in designing plays which perpetually surprise and challenge audiences by unexpected reversals of character and plot, it is only to be expected that these expedient discontinuities should challenge the ingenuity of academics pursuing the high rationality that the original Academy of Plato was designed to foster. Shakespeare sometimes even omits definite resolution of a plot line, as when Isabella fails to respond to the Duke’s offer of marriage at the end of Measure for Measure. In other, more historical plays, such as Henry V, the audience’s attitude to its hero oscillates from scene to scene. First they can see him as a dupe of the church. Next he seems childishly provoked, by French superciliousness, to threats of massacre, rape and pillage. In executing the threatened invasion he proves to be near apparent failure of the expedition against France, and even ruefully concedes to us his family’s guilt in seizing the succession to Richard II. Thereafter he is saved against all expectation by victory at the battle of Agincourt, but yet he finishes the play with a courtship providing vindication of our fashionable sixties aphorism, “Make love not war,” through a marriage reconciling the two nations. In a much-cited essay, “Rabbits, Ducks and Henry V,” Norman Rabkin does not see in this sequence of viewer variables a progression towards the at least momentary achievement of a fertile peace. Rather he detects a calculated...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.