When Enobarbus tells her that she cannot fight in the war both because women fighters are too distracting to men and because Rome will use her presence as a way to defame Antony, she responds as follows:. Of course, Enobarbus' words come true in the play. Cleopatra is a distraction for Antony at Actium, and the Romans do accuse him of being emasculated by his love for her.
Note--this question prompted a lot of discussion from the students. It was a great way to get them to close read both the speech and the play, and it prompted some really interesting speculation about the types of feminine authority that were comforting or threatening. The idea that Cleopatra would dress like a man when she went to war is interesting in light of both Act 3's representation of how monarchs use clothing to construct power and the trope of the Maid Martial in English poetry.
In terms of Cleopatra and clothes, we can build off of our discussion from Act 2 by considering the extended discussion of monarchy and clothing that develops in Act 3. Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra in the film Cleopatra, dir. Cecil B. In this still, Cleopatra is dressed as Isis. Isis, an Egyptian goddess. Often depicted wearing a headdress shaped either like a throne or with the sun disk encircled by cow's horns. I found it useful to refer back to the Armada portrait that we had discussed in relation to Act 2. Discussion questions: Why is Caesar scandalized by the gold thrones and the costume of Isis?
Compare and contrast with both Fulvia and Octavia. How are "good" women supposed to act in this play, especially women that have some degree of power? Compare and contrast the costume of Isis as we can glean from the images above and the gown that Elizabeth wore in her Armada Portrait.
How do these two sets of clothing perform female authority? I am very lucky to be friends with Valerie Billing who is doing exciting work on the erotics of size in Early Modern English literature. She generously shared with me some of her work in progress on Queen Elizabeth and clothing. About the Armada Portrait, Billing writes:.
And about the "Petticoat Speech," Billing adds:.
These short passages were a great touchstone for my students to contemplate if a similar eroticized spectacle was at work in Cleopatra's presentation of herself, either as a maid martial or as the goddess Isis. If Elizabeth's performance of power operates through a simultaneous revealing and concealing of her body, does Cleopatra repulse Caesar because she is too much on display? How would that work in performance if the boy actor playing Cleopatra in the play's original performance couldn't reveal too much of his corporeal body?
Does her self-display even matter if it is only giving to us through other people's words? How could she control that? How is Antony implicated in all this? Does he feminize himself when he puts himself on display with Cleopatra according to Caesar? In terms of the trope of the maid martial, I asked my students to read an excerpt on Amazons from Spenser's verse romance, The Faerie Queene, which was written while Queen Elizabeth was still alive.
Indeed, the poem was written with Elizabeth in mind. Spenser read portions of him poem out loud to Elizabeth, and he instructs his readers that he has "shadow[ed]" Elizabeth in multiple places in the poem. In the passage that we read, the Amazon Radigund, a female bests the knight Artegall, a male when the two are fighting. Then, she humiliates him by making him wear women's clothes and perform menial women's tasks related to cloth-making and sewing. The episode is based on the myth of Hercules and Omphale, which we discuss at greater length in conjunction with Act 4.
Here are some stanzas from Spenser's poem, which are an excellent starting point:. The idea of the broken sword is everywhere in the latter half of Shakespeare's play. Here is a pertinent example from Act Discussion questions: Explain the imagery of the weakened or broken swords in both these passages from Spenser and Shakespeare. Cleopatra and Antony are allies not competitors, so how has she broken his sword? Why does Antony call her his conqueror? How does Radigund conquer Artegall?
Is that the same thing?
Spenser ostensibly wrote this poem for Queen Elizabeth. Which of the three leaders appears to be the most powerful at this point in the play? How does the power shift? Cleopatra and Charmian compare methods of keeping a man. In which scene does Cleopatra win such a battle? When does Antony win? How does the status of each person shift when they are together? What are the unspoken thoughts of Antony and Cleopatra?
How do the spoken words vary from the unspoken? What evidence points towards these subtextual truths? Cleopatra is a woman of many tactics. What tactics does she use to get what she wants from Antony, her servants, and later from Caesar? Are her dramatic mood swings emotional outbursts? Or are they manipulative strategies as well? How does it change throughout the play?
How does life in Egypt differ from life in Rome? Why do these differences attract Antony to Egypt? How trustworthy is Cleopatra? Should Antony trust her as an ally? Is she truthful? To whom? Antony and Cleopatra are quite public with their private affair. How do the Romans look at such public behavior? How would contemporary U.
Discover teaching ideas and lesson planning inspiration through our range of and other supporting materials on Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Suggested related lesson plans with directions on how to find them on the This introduction to Antony and Cleopatra gets students thinking about the issues in.
Would the reactions be the same in other cultures? How are messengers and followers treated differently by Caesar, Antony, and Cleopatra? Who seems to be the most benev- olent, hostile, or respectful in such relationships? What does this say about each character?
Octavius Caesar is spoken of many times before he actually makes an appearance. What impressions of Caesar are creat- ed before he arrives in the play? Does he fulfill those impressions? ACT II 1. Why does Pompey believe that he can win a war against the triumvirate? What part does Cleopatra play in raising his expectations for victory? In Act II, scene ii, Antony and Caesar have an argument filled with accusations and statements of self-defense. Who is to blame for the unrest in Italy and the war against Caesar?
Who wins the argument? Caesar and Antony reconcile their differences. How sincere is this reconciliation? Who plans the marriage between Octavia and Antony?
Periodic homework assignments and quizzes are a great way to encourage students to stay on top of their assigned reading. Reading Assignment Sheet. About the play At the height of power, Mark Antony neglects his empire for his mistress, Cleopatra. Step 3: Let's dive into the play. Compare and contrast with both Fulvia and Octavia. View a FREE sample.
Caesar or Agrippa?