‘Some squeaking Cleopatra’
Shakespeare’s Globe, 1999
in Antony and Cleopatra
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One of the (reconstructed) Globe’s early attempts at simulating ‘authentic’ Jacobean performance conditions – its so-called ‘original practices Shakespeare’ – this production put an ‘authentic’ all-male cast on stage in ‘authentic’ early modern costumes. This chapter interrogates the premise of authenticity and critiques performances, particularly Mark Rylance’s as Cleopatra, that registered both textual and semiotic incoherence. If the aim of reconstructing Shakespeare’s Globe was to provide ‘a machine to test … original staging’, what, this chapter wonders, did this production teach audiences about Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra? Answering, it proposes that the great discovery of ‘original practices staging’ was to understand this play as a comedy and Cleopatra as a clown.

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