‘Infinite variety’, the phrase famously applied to Cleopatra by Antony’s faithful follower, the professional soldier Enobarbus (2.2.242), may as well describe the responses to the play itself throughout its critical history. Antony and Cleopatra has rarely met with unqualified approval: argument has been dominated by disagreements about what kind of play it is: chronicle history or love story, political drama or romantic tragedy. This Guide will survey some of the most important tendencies in criticism and scholarship, closely discussing the most prominent or indicative of these. It will also, in the notes provided for each chapter, suggest further reading on particular topics, the titles of which are collected for convenience in a select bibliography at the end of the Guide. It cannot be stressed enough that nothing can be taken for granted in a discussion of this play. So various has opinion been and so divided in judgement that only the broadest summaries can hope to do justice to it.
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- Introduction: ‘Like to a vagabond flag upon a stream’: The Vagaries of Opinion Concerning Antony and Cleopatra
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