Militarism and Pacifism in Shakespeare’s "Antony and Cleopatra"

By Kathleen A. Kelly.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 7, 2014 Free Download

This paper reads “Antony and Cleopatra” against the tension between a militarist past and a pacifist Stuart culture, as delineated by Steven Marx. In the early acts of “Antony and Cleopatra,” Rome evaluates both Antony and Cleopatra from the militarist perspective, which sees peace as idleness and a destroyer of military virtue. But this view is problematized in the play by linking Cleopatra’s eroticism not only with seduction but also with harmony and fruitfulness, and by associating militarist success not with virtue but with an opportunism that separates military virtue from physical as well as moral superiority. The second half of the play redefines the limits and measure of peace and of military virtue through the trials and affections of Antony and Cleopatra. It revalues what has been apparently only an idle, erotic attraction by forging it into a faithful relationship that is equally the source and reward of military virtue. Concomitantly, it revalues military virtue by grounding it in the preservation of domestic and communal spirit.

Keywords: English Renaissance Drama, Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra", Love and War

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 11, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.19-25. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 7, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 392.104KB)).

Prof. Kathleen A. Kelly

Professor of English, Arts and Humanities Division, Babson College, Babson Park, MA, USA

Dr. Kelly is Professor of English and formerly Chair of the Arts and Humanities Division at Babson College. She received her Ph.D from The Ohio State University, and she teaches and publishes in both literary studies and the theory and pedagogy of writing. Her published work includes articles on Bakhtin’s theory of genres, the poetry of John Donne and Andrew Marvel, and the fiction of Julian Barnes. She is coauthor with Janis Forman of The Random House Guide to Business Writing.