Thursday, October 28, 2004

what the?? Cleopatra doesn't look too Egyptian here... Posted by Hello

From a film version of the play... Posted by Hello

a painting... Posted by Hello

from a play? Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Timeline of Ancient China

link to a timeline of significant events in ancient Chinese History

Focalization Within Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra with Highlights From Act 4

  • The Focalizer is a character within the play that the playwright employs to manipulate the perspective/point of view of the theatergoing audience. In Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Antony fulfills this role. His constant partying, hedonistic tendencies and his inclination to stray from his political duties as the third triumvir are all crucial elements to Antony's role as the focalizer.

Highlights/Memorable Moments of Act 4:

  • Scene 2- Antony is self-disillusioned and desparate. He parties when he should be plotting an exit strategy in his battle with Caesar.
  • Scene 3- Hercules abandons Antony when several men hear oboes playing, which are the sounds symbolic of the God Hercules abandoning Antony.
  • Scene 4- Cleopatra arms Antony in his own armor in a scene that confirms her power over the Roman triumvir. This incident also blurs the sex roles within the play, for it is often Cleopatra who dons Antony's sword (a symbol of his manhood).
  • Scene 6- Enobarbus abandons Antony and recites a soliloquy during which he expresses his regret over abandoning Antony in an act of treason and joining Caesar's forces.
  • Scene 8- Antony discusses his union with Cleopatra in a rather graphic and sexual manner: "Chain mine arm'd neck! Leap thou, attire and all, Through the proof of harness to my heart, and there Ride on the pants triumphing!" (4.8.14-16).
  • Scene 8- Antony expresses his inner desire to party in a scene that reveals both his military masculinity and exposes his lushness/femininity.
  • Scene 9- Enobarbus' death, which is likely caused by self-inflicted wounds.
  • Scene 12- This is the final moment of Antony's rejection of Cleopatra-- Antony will no longer crawl back to Cleopatra, for the Queen of the Nile has cried wolf (so to speak) too many times.
  • Scene 13- Cleopatra takes leave of Antony and sends a messenger to tell the Roman triumvir that she has killed herself merely so she can observe his reaction to the news. The news serces as both a tragic joke and a test of Antony's devotion to Cleopatra, which the cunning queen utilizes as a gauge to measure Antony's love for her.
  • Scene 14- Antony looks into the sky and analyzes the cloud formations above him. Also, Cleopatra steals the limelight from Antony's death in this scene with the last word on his death.

Many of these highlights reveal much about Cleopatra's roleplay throughout Antony and Cleopatra. The Egyptian Queen constantly wears a mask and the reader/audience is never truly sure about how she feels (in particular how she feels about Antony).

Notes on Homosocial Relationships Within Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra

  • Homosocial bonds consist of the relationship between two men, which is mediated by a female character. The rivalry between Mark Antony and Caesar is mediated by Octavia, who is Antony's recent wife and Caesar's sister.


  • Octavia, in her bond between Caesar and Antony, serves as a sort of object/commodity. She simultaneously embodies a bridge between the two triumvirs and a truce agreement.
  • Octavia's role in uniting Antony and Caesar through her marriage to the third triumvir creates an example of the role of women in this play as an object to be passed between the two triumvir men.
  • The rivalry between Antony and Caesar is so strong and charged that the tension is almost homoerotic
  • Homosocial bonds within Shakespeare's plays often bear a wide range, with characters at both extremes on the spectrum--

homosocial rivalry-------------------------homoerotic love

Homosocial bonds attempt to capture this wide range, as do the bonds between the rival triumvirs Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony.

Mention of Cleopatra in an Online Article About Sexism in History and Literature

History shouldn't be gender-biasedSAM MUSTAFAGraduate Student, History
I ran into a graduate student colleague yesterday. As we chatted about various things, I noticed a poster for a series of events celebrating March as Women's History Month. Or, as the poster proclaimed,"Wymyn's Herstory." I remarked that I found the misspellings a bit strange.
"It's to show that our experience as women is not merely derivative of men," my friend explained.
"Who said it was merely derivative?" I asked.
"It's everywhere," she said,"from Eve being made from Adam's rib, to the word 'woman' just being a man with a womb, to history being his-story. It's time to tell her-story for a change."
"Oh, come on, the word history doesn't mean his-story," I said. "It's from the French histoire, which means 'story.' It's a feminine noun, by the way. It's feminine in Spanish, German and Russian, too -- it just means 'story' or 'tale.'"
"But that's the way it's always been used," she said. "History has always been his-tory. Sure, historians talk about people like Catherine the Great or Cleopatra, but only because these women lived up to men's standards, and thus were considered worthy of being included with all the men. That's an inherently sexist perspective. The story of women hasn't been told as a story worthy in its own right."
"Well, you're probably right about that," I said. "But now, to fight sexism, you're going to tell the story of only one gender? Didn't you just say that kind of thinking was the root of the whole problem?"
I am so weary and depressed by intellectual balkanization. Why can't history be gender-unified: the story of all humans? Must we break it up arbitrarily by sex? The Wymyn's Herstory people pluck men out of the picture like a child separating peas from carrots. This is progress? The next step in this line of thinking is to teach a course in "Men's History" -- Peter the Great, but not Catherine. We could offer a semester of each, and via this schizophrenic "equality," students could learn the whole story: one angry faction at a time.
Does the exclusion of men serve women any better than the exclusion of women has served men in the past? A flyer on the same bulletin board proclaimed a seminar entitled, "What's It Like To Be A Woman In Academia?" It said that "All women faculty, staff and students are encouraged to attend." Men, I gather, are not invited?
One of the events advertised by the Wymyn's Herstory poster is a visit by Sister Helen Prejean, who at the request of the Issues Committee, will speak about capital punishment. Obviously this is an issue which has great relevance to men, since over 99 percent of all those executed in America are male. Not only is Sister Helen's visit unrelated to Women's History, I am somewhat skeptical of the use of a Catholic nun as a progressive role model for "wymyn." (Has anyone considered her stance on contraception, abortion or the right of women to become priests?) But worst of all, to make an issue of Sister Helen's gender, to claim that her speech on capital punishment is a women's issue merely because she is a woman-- these are sexist concepts. Take Sister Helen out of the Wymyn's Herstory box; she is simply a human being, and her ideas are of value to us all.
No one, I hope, denies that women have been left out of the traditional view of history. The solution, however, is to correct his omission, not to erect a separate edifice which commits the same narrow-minded exclusion of half the human race. I want to see absorption of women's history into the whole human story. I want a history of people; their ideas and deeds, uncluttered by value judgments based on their gender. To celebrate Women's History Month, let's fight sexism by doing something more than simply reversing its polarity.

Taken from

Some Introductory Notes on William Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra"

  • Shakespeare was a philologist (sp?)-- he loved the study of words and incorporated an erudite vocabulary into all of his work as a means of staying connected to words.
  • The play was written during the early modern period of England, and Shakespeare's work (Antony and Cleopatra included) helped in the invention and development of the modern sense of self. This period centered around the 16th-17th century.
  • Shakespeare himself lived from 1564 to 1616-- a relatively short life by contemporary standards. The playwright had a middle-class upbringing and mastered Latin/classical Rhetoric at an early age.
  • Shakespeare also became very familiar with the Bible and its classical English form as part of his early education. When he began writing plays, Shakespeare began to incorporate biblical elements into his complex plots.
  • Shakespeare is especially known for his English historical/classical tragedies and comedies. The playwright is especially infamous for his ambiguous plays that fall between the cracks of tragedy and comedy.
  • Shakespeare's plays stand in tension with all that was considered proper and correct during his time. The Globe Theater of London, where his plays were performed, stood on the other bank of the Thames River, where the public would go to gamble, visit brothels and attend one of his controversial plays. Much of the controversy in Shakespeare's work stems from his incorporation of taboo play material that angered the clergy officials of 16th/17th century London. Men fulfilling women's roles serves as an example of the type of thing that made Shakespeare's plays controversial.
  • Antony and Cleopatra was written in 1606, after Shakesepare had finished writing Hamlet and McBeth.
  • The play formulates its conflict on the tension in the play between the rigidity of the Roman Empire and the easygoing, alternative lifestyle in Egypt. Shakespeare has constructed two principle allegorical settings, with Rome symbolizing order and duty, while Alexandria (and Egypt in general) is emblematic of luxury and excess.
  • Antony and Cleopatra is a heterogenous play, meaning a performance that has many different elements coming together with distinct viewpoints and perspectives. Shakespeare capitalizes on the division of character classification as either one of two categories-- individual people and as rhetorical figures. This division is symbolic of Shakespare's imagination being split in two pieces.
  • The drama in Antony and Cleopatra is an excellent example of heteroglossia-- the presence of several different voices within the same text, with special emphasis upon each character representing a particular figure of speech.
  • Antony and Cleopatra is a play of opposites: Military-- "dotage", Self-control-- pleasure, Discipline-- excess, "Devotion"-- "lust"
  • Shakespeare plays upon these opposites in constructing a conflict around Mark Antony's character-- his involvement with Cleopatra is deemed a "feminizing quality" that detracts from his service to the Roman Empire as the third triumvir. Not only is Cleopatra eyed by Antony's triumvir colleagues as a detraction to his service, but the fact that she is a "gipsy" underscores Antony's seduction from service by a promiscuous, exotic and alien woman.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Some Notes on Class Discussion of McLaughlin's "The Persians' performance

  • The costumes of the cast had very anachronistic elements to them-- i.e. the general chorus member with WWII-like clothing, Darius with his Civil War/confederate costume, and the desert camoflage pants of the messenger-- the same pants worn by American troops currently serving in Iraq
  • the four chorus members serve as allegorical roles of Persian society- -- the general, the professor, the judge and the diplomat
  • each chorus member mourns the loss of their own "son" when the messenger delivers the news of who from the Persian army was lost in Greece, which creates personal grief for each personality of the chorus
  • The playwright wrote the script of the play during the United States military invasion of Iraq last March
  • The playwright also refused to set up which side of the play represented the Americans or Iraqis. Despite the fact that the ancient Persian empire was centered upon what is now present-day Iraq, the Persians may also be representative of the United States in the current war
  • Unlike a movie that constricts the focus of the viewer, the theater gives the theatergoer the freedom of sight-- you can look anywhere on stage, even to where the focus is not supposed to be
  • The intimate layout of the Aurora Theater forces the actors/actress to become involved in the audience, ex: they enter/exit the stage through passages between where the audience is seated
  • The actors spitting, screaming, wailing and weeping makes many individuals in the audience very uncomfortable. However, this uncomfort is part of the process of defamiliarization

Persians comment

It seems that the Persian struggle against the Greeks is futile from the start. Throughout the text the Persians acknowledge the power of the Greek gods and their tremendous ability to contribute to the Greek cause: "Something not human- whose weight tipped the scales of luck and cut our forces down. God keep Athens safe for her goddess," (567-571) "...for after some god had handed Greeks the glory in the seafight..." (736-737). As the story progresses the Persians become increasingly aware of the fact that the scales are tipped against them, particularly when the messenger arrives on the scene and informs Atossa of the tremendous loss of life to the Babylonian armies in Greece. Meanwhile, the Persians' only god seems to be incapable of protecting its people as the Greek gods protect their citizens with a mighty hand. In another Greek play- "The Odyssey," the Goddess Athena watches over Odysseus (the protagonist) and periodically keeps him out of danger/helps him fight off his enemies. Clearly, the Greek gods of Classical literature take on a powerful "guardian angel" role. It may also be that Aeschylus is exaggerating the power of the Gods of Greece, seeing that this play was to be formed for the Greeks with the intention of praising their tremendous victory over the Persian empire. What do you all think?

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