Richard Wilson
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Your crown’s awry
The visual turn in Antony and Cleopatra
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Liquefaction in the Roman plays is always a sign of emasculation, and the melted globe of Antony and Cleopatra belongs to a recurring Shakespearean image cluster connecting 'sweets' that 'discandy' to a salivating court. 'The time of universal peace is near', declares Shakespeare's Octavius, in the Virgilianism of the Stuart court, giving a spatial stage-direction for the messianic epoch to be put on show: 'the three-nooked world / Shall bear the olive freely'. The reference might be to the trio of alcoves behind the stage of the Globe, reserved for royal entrances. According to Alvin Kernan's art-inspired interpretation, Shakespeare's strategy in Antony and Cleopatra is a vast exaggeration of scale: 'James and his court looked cheap and vulgar only so long as they were confined to the realistic setting of the Thames'.

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Free Will

Art and power on Shakespeare’s stage


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