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Shakespeare gives his language dramatic power
through his use of certain devices. The most
common of these are imagery (metaphor, simile,
and personification), antithesis, repetition, lists
and verse.
Always remember that Shakespeare did not have the spectacular
realism that film and television can generate, nor that modern
theatre can attempt. His theatre was non-realist, non-naturalistic,
relying on conversations shared by actors and audiences, a few
props, elaborate costumes, but above all on language and the
human voice.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
William Shakespeare
From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1
Think again about the hyperbole below. Your
initial response may well differ to that of a
Shakespearean audience. Would they think it
undermines or supports the image of Antony
and Cleopatra's transcendental love?
'thou needs find out new heaven, new earth'
Antony's speech is immediately notable for his use of
hyperbole, particularly when discussing his feelings for
Cleopatra. When he claims that she would have to find, 'new
heaven, new earth' if she were to measure his love, it is an
important technique to help his audience appreciate the
scale of his feelings, which are transcendental. This contrast
with how Philo presents the love forces the audience to
choose who to believe, the famous General or Roman
opinion, a conflict that shall continue throughout the play.
Enobarbus, Act 2, Scene 2:
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her, that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.
cloy - disgust
riggish - licentious
Cleopatra is an extremely complex character: she is labelled
a, 'gypsy', during the very first lines of the play, poetically
professes the transcendental nature of her love, violently
admonishes a servant, is clearly both beautiful and alluring,
clever and manipulative, and poses a great threat to Rome.
'Cleopatra is always at a disadvantage as a woman in a maledominated world'.
What in your opinion are the main strengths and weaknesses
she shows?
Explore the role and significance of Cleopatra in
the play.
and don't forget she abandons Antony
twice during battle!