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Review: Antony and Cleopatra

            In his chapter "The Final Paradox," Irving Ribner seems to believe that Shakespeare was addressing and returning to the theme of damnation, feeling that he has shown this in his earlier plays. Ribner continually refers to both Antony and Cleopatra's actions throughout the play as both sinful and evil for they were not acting, as he terms it: Morally. "The destructive power of evil and the magnificence of evil are simultaneously displayed." Ribner give the impression of being a heavily religious man, as he seems to be able to relate almost every "immoral" occurrence in the play back to the ultimate destruction of man and civilization. He declares Plutarch as moral for his views on Antony's actions, as at the beginning he states, he was a once great man yet now consumed by his own indulgence, which Ribner backs up by stating that Antony shows an inordinate love of vice and dissipation.
             "Antony and Cleopatra uses as a moral exemplum to teach the evils of lust, with Cleopatra as the embodiment of animal lechery and Antony the drunken, prodigal fool ensnared by her duplicity, discarding an empire and damning his soul." Damning his soul, I've had a hard time in believing that is what Shakespeare was implying when writing the play. Shakespeare's play seems to demonstrate a continuing struggle for power, whether it be Cleopatra's ever long battle to keep Egypt hers, for she had already made Julius Caesar lay down his sword, or Antony's conflicts within himself to regain his power over not only Rome, but also himself and most importantly Cleopatra, the "cause of his downfall". On top of this is Octavius Caesar's fight to become the sole triumpher of Rome, and Pompey's fight to bring himself back to Rome. Would it be better suggested that perhaps his theme was that with great power comes a need for an ever greater sense of awareness, for those who hold the powerful seats will always be challenged for their position.

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