Written near the end of Shakespeare's most phenomenally creative period, Antony and Cleopatra is perhaps the most ambitious of all Shakespeare's designs, in its unmatched geographical and historial sweep, its bold mingling of genres, and its extraordinary variety of style, mood, and effect. Yet the degree and nature of its success remain surprisingly contentious, and performances of the play have seldom matched the extravagant expectations of its
admirers. The wideranging introduction to this new edition considers the paradoxes of the play's reception from a number of angles. A full discussion of Shakespeare's sources (the most important of which is excerpted in a generous appendix) considers ways in which these may have influenced the
play's problematic design. A comprehensive stage history illustrates how the theatrical fortunes of Antony and Cleopatra continue to be affected by the inappropriate spectacular traditions of nineteenth-century staging, and by an enduring gender-inflected orientalism that has particularly distorted responses to the character of Cleopatra. A substantial critical section examines how the technique of the play - its deliberate frustrations of expectation, its carefully
constructed tensions between rhetoric and action, and its daring exploitation of bathos and anti-climax - may have contributed to the sense of disappointment which colours so many accounts of performance. The editor argues that such effects are structural to the paradoxical vision of this tragedy and to its disturbed
preoccupation with the unstable boundaries of gender and identity. The text has been freshly edited in accordance with the principles of the series, and the extensive commentary is attentive to the theatrical dimensions of the play as well as to the rich complexity of its poetic language.