Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra

A. C. Bradley, “Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra,” in Oxford Lectures on Poetry (London: MacMillan, 1909), 279308


Coleridge’s one page of general criticism on Antony and Cleopatra contains some notable remarks. “Of all Shakespeare’s historical plays,” he writes, “Antony and Cleopatra is by far the most wonderful. There is not one in which he has followed history so minutely, and yet there are few in which he im presses the notion of angelic strength so much — perhaps none in which he impresses it more strongly.  This is greatly owing to the manner in which the fiery force is sustained throughout.” In a later sentence he refers to the play as “this astonishing drama.” In another he describes the style: “feliciter audax is the motto for its style comparatively with  that of Shakespeare’s other works.” And he translates this motto in the phrase “happy valiancy of style.”  Coleridge’s assertion that in Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare followed history more minutely than in  any other play might well be disputed ; and his  statement about the style of this drama requires  some qualification in view of the results of later  criticism as to the order of Shakespeare’s works. The style is less individual than he imagined.

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