‘That time? O times!’
The Jacobean Antony and Cleopatra
in Antony and Cleopatra
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This chapter locates Antony and Cleopatra on the Jacobean stage. It contextualises the regime change which the play dramatises to the regime change then occupying England after the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. It proposes a connection between The Masque of Blackness, ordered by Queen Anna for the Christmas revels in 1605, when she and her female courtiers blacked up to play Egyptian ‘daughters of Niger’, and both Shakespeare’s Othello, staged at court in November 1604, and Antony and Cleopatra, 1606. Like The Masque of Blackness, Shakespeare’s Egyptian play put a black queen on stage. Was Shakespeare’s play a sequel to Anna’s? How was the Jacobean casting managed? No doubt Richard Burbage was Shakespeare’s first Antony. But who first played Cleopatra?

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