Shakespeare Studies

Antony and Cleopatra

The death of Cleopatra by Reginald Arthur 1892 - Wikkimedia Commons

Spring is the season of love. In Shakespeare’s plays, we think first of the joy and tragedy of the young lovers, Romeo and Juliet.  We delight in the purity of their infatuation; we remember with nostalgia the startling power of their desire; and we have learned, sadly, that it cannot survive. Ah, love.

What then of love in adult years? Does infatuation become folly? Has desire turned into lust? Is adult love as fleeting, as ephemeral, as untrustworthy as that of the young? Or, has that great creative power succumbed to the cynicism of experience and become mere sensuality and crass negotiation? 

In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare uses these archetypal lovers to dramatize the power of love to transcend all else in life. Here are Ares and Aphrodite, trapped and bound together in Haephestus’ web, not shamed but, rather, oblivious to anything other than themselves. Those who watch judge with approval, envy, disgust, disappointment, admiration . . . , but all are amazed at the wonder and folly of it all.

When all is lost, as all always must be, will we admire and respect the lovers for the power and persistence of their infatuation, or will we endorse the cold and calculating political success of Octavius Caesar? Perhaps we will. like J. Alfred Prufrock, ask ourselves, “Would it have been worthwhile after all . . . ?” The only certainty we have is that William Shakespeare’s poetry shows us what he values most.

This interest group will meet for five consecutive Mondays with one act of the play as the focus for each meeting. Members are encouraged to read the act prior to each session so that they can participate in a meaningful way. The first session will be held April 17th from 10:00 – 11:30, when the first act of Anthony and Cleopatra will be covered. The group will gather in the conference room at St. Matthew’s United Church located at 2035-26A Street SW; unfortunately, this room is not wheelchair accessible.

Drop-ins with knowledge of the play are welcome.

The group is facilitated by Wayne Valleau, a retired high school English teacher and a major Shakespeare fanatic.

To register please email Brenda Falle bfalle@shaw.ca.*

*Before you register, you must be a member of CALL. To join CALL, click here

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