My Puppy Woke Up and Chose Violence
Good day. Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life. If you are new here, my name is Hannah and there are some things you should know about me. One, I have a massive collection of books. Two, I have two dogs that I love dearly.
If you are a returning visitor to this blog then you may already know my dog Truffles. She picked a book for me to review back in December. You can find that post here. I suggest reading it; I think it’s a good post.
Since that post went up, another puppy has entered his way into my life. Please welcome my little baby boy: Waffles! Waffles is a six-month-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi, his nickname is Mischief Man, he loves to go get coffee with me, and he picked what I’ll be reviewing today.
Waffles did me dirty with this week. I gave him three books to pick from, and he chose the one I was praying he wouldn’t pick. His options were: The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, and Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare.
Naturally, he picked Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. I cried. My first thought was: “how am I supposed to review Shakespeare!?” Let me tell ya, this was not easy post to write.
And if anyone wants a reminder of my dislike of Shakespeare, you can find my thoughts on his comedies right here. Also as a reminder, I am not the first person do this. Having a dog pick out something to review or wear is an old trend. I just want it to be known that I am not trying to take credit for this idea. Onto the review now; and as always, a spoiler alert is in order.
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra was first performed around 1607/1608 making it one of his last works. It is also considered one of Shakespeare’s last great tragedies as only one other came after 1607. Although, a few critics do argue that Antony and Cleopatra is what is known as a “problem play” since it does not fit into one category of Shakespeare’s canon. Personally, I classify it simply as a tragedy. I don’t classify it as a romance as I feel Cleopatra was treating Antony more as a political pawn than a lover. Nor do I do classify it under his historical plays as those tend to read more as biographies although this can certainly be considered one.
That being said, history does classify Mark Antony and Cleopatra as one of the most iconic lovers of all time. And Shakespeare’s play follows the last few days of their lives. Antony and Cleopatra is also sometimes considered a sequel to Shakespeare’s more famous tragedy: Julius Caesar. If you are not familiar with that play, do not fret, there are only two things that one needs to know before jumping into Antony and Cleopatra. One, Cleopatra was once in a relationship with Julius Caesar himself. Two, Caesar dies at the end of his titular play and Mark Antony was one of the men who killed him. If you’ve taken one basic ancient history course, you probably already knew those things anyway so reading Julius Caesar is definitely not necessary to follow the plot of Antony and Cleopatra.
Sorry, got a little side tracked there. Anyway, synopsis time; this time for real. Mark Antony has become infatuated with Cleopatra and has basically neglected Rome’s problems even though he’s one of the main men in charge. So Rome isn’t happy with him. To smooth things over, the other two leaders of Rome, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus, suggest to Mark Antony that he marry Octavius’ sister to show the Roman public Antony is still loyal to Rome. Mark Antony agrees and returns to Rome; much to Cleopatra’s disappointment and anger.
Enter the next part of our play: war. Through a series of backstabbing political decisions, Mark Antony finds himself on the wrong side of Octavius and Lepidus’ wrath. The only thing he can do now is partner with Egypt and battle his former alliance. The plan is to fight at sea, but on the day of the battle Cleopatra takes her fleet and leaves. Antony has no choice but to do so as well, thus making him appear as a coward.
The battle gets rescheduled, this time it’ll be a land battle, but he still loses because his own soldiers leave him in the middle of the war! So what is our male love interest to do? Blame Cleopatra of course and vow to kill her!
Wow, what an amazing, healthy relationship we have here. And it gets better! After hearing what Antony plans to do, Cleopatra sends word that she killed herself. Why does she do this? Because she thinks it’ll win his love back.
I don’t know which famous lovers are worse: Romeo and Juliet or Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Sound off in the comments or on Twitter. If you respond on Twitter, make sure to tag me @RHRMLBlog.
Back to our lovers now. Upon hearing of his true love’s “death,” Mark Antony stabs himself. Cleopatra finds out about the huge mistake she has made and has her man rushed to her side for him to die in her arms. Once he’s dead, Cleopatra becomes a prisoner of Rome since she lost to them in battle. Oh yeah, we were just at war, remember that? It’s okay because I forgot about it until now too.
She ain’t cool with that though. She is a Queen, she will not be Rome’s prisoner. And so, Shakespeare cemented the belief that she killed herself with a venomous snake. Thus ends our tragedy.
I know it feels like I threw a lot at you, but I promise you it’s actually not. The main take away you should have right now is: don’t fuck with Rome and Cleo is an absolute baller.
As much as I hate to admit it, Shakespeare created a dynamic female lead. Cleopatra may be vain, hot tempered, a little too obsessed with her man, and downright mean at times, but she’s still vastly intelligent, cunning, witty, and politically savvy. Shakespeare’s version of Cleopatra is nearly an exact copy of how I’ve depicted her in my mind.
During the times Antony is away from her, she demands constant updates about where he is, how he’s doing, and who he’s with. She doesn’t do this because she’s a crazed stalker. Nay, nay. She’s doing this to judge everything he does. She’s doing this for political reasons. The safety of her kingdom relies on how Antony is ruling Rome. If he seems overly disinterested in Rome’s political affairs, she knows the other Roman leaders will drop him, and Egypt’s position and safety will be in trouble. But she also knows if he gets overly involved, and Rome gains even more power, then Egypt will be in even more trouble as Rome may try to take over her kingdom. She knows what’s up, she knows what she’s doing; she’s playing chess while the men are playing checkers.
One point to Willy Shakes for creating Cleopatra. I’m not happy about doing that, but he created one spectacular female lead. Don’t need me, I’m going to begrudgingly sitting in the corner stewing in how upset I am about this situation.
As far as the other characters go, no one can compare to Cleopatra; Mark Antony especially. I feel like this man just exists. He basically gets by thanks to his name and the military victories of his youth. And compared to Cleopatra, he does not care for his kingdom or people. Rome is basically meaningless to him for a good portion of the play. Unless an issue directly affects him, more specifically his good name, he does not care and does the bare minimum. What a man!
As far as the plot goes, I don’t really have any issues with it. I mean, this play is based on history after all, the author can only take so many liberties if he, she or they wants to stay true to the original source material. And to the best of my knowledge, that’s what Shakespeare did. Yes, all the conversations are fictionalized, but all the events of the play did supposedly happen to an extent. This is a pretty historically accurate play compared to some other historical works out there.
This play also has all the hallmarks of a Shakespeare tragedy. Antony and Cleopatra boasts themes like power struggles, fate/destiny vs. free will, and of course love. Don’t forget about the dick jokes, the main character’s posse who are there exclusively for scene/costume changes, and pirates being there to move the plot along. It’s got it all.
That is if Shakespeare is your thing. For me it’s not. We all know this. Despite its interesting historical backdrop, I found most of the play to be Shakespeare’s standard fare. Aside from the knockout of a character with Cleopatra, the characters never jumped off the page for me.
It could be fair to say that I didn’t give this one much of a chance given my dislike of the author. But Antony and Cleopatra was just bland to me. Nothing about this story captured and kept my attention. Watching this tragedy could be a completely different story if the right actors are chosen for the leading lovers. As I’ve mentioned in my previous Shakespeare post, the best of actors can make the worst of scripts work, and Shakespeare plays are no different. The best of actors can transport an audience to another world or another time to unfold a story of love, lust, and political intrigue.
Shakespeare’s writing just isn’t my cup of tea and it made reading this play a massive chore. What should have taken me an hour or two tops, took me nearly half the day. This experience was not enjoyable whatsoever! My puppy hates me! My puppy just wants me to suffer! I did not like this play. I liked Cleo and that was it. Unfortunately she is not the only character in the play and I had to suffer with characters like Mark Antony and his posse. Antony and Cleopatra gets a huge, fat, big ole no from me.
I’m gonna go now and read literally any other play. I bid you all adieu. I’ll see you all next week with hopefully something I did not find insufferable. Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask if you aren’t yet vaccinated, and read some good books for me.