‘Antony and Cleopatra’ reign at Hofstra
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Mark Antony stood at the height of power in Rome, as part of the ruling triumvirate, seeking to be the most powerful man in the known world; Cleopatra was the queen of that ancient civilization, Egypt, and heir to the glorious cultural achievements of another, Greece.
“Cleopatra was a powerful woman in a world ruled by men,” said Dr. Kolb. “She led a remarkable life. Imagine how the world would have been different and what would have happened to Western culture if Egypt had defeated Rome.”
In his director’s notes, Dr. Kolb points out that Antony and Cleopatra features several themes known to recur in Shakespearean works. One is the tension of the “other” – or between conventional and unconventional. Cleopatra was “other” by way of her race (Greek/Egyptian) and also by the fact that she was a great and influential ruler in a world dominated by men. Additionally, the juxtaposition of West versus East, masculine versus feminine, Roman coldness and rationality versus Egyptian passion and heat are all examples of Shakespeare’s exploration of the antithesis in his works.
“Antony and Cleopatra, a late play of Shakespeare’s, examines a tension and dichotomy that still exists in the 21st century,” Dr. Kolb said. “Ancient Greeks considered anyone who was not Greek to be a barbarian. Romans adopted that mantle and believed that they had to bring culture and civilization to the rest of the “uncivilized” world.”