Overflowing the Measure: Cleopatra Unbound

Abstract : Negotiating with contradictory views of meteorology spread by classical writers, Shakespeare frequently relies in his plays on a rich weather imagery which conveys the anxieties of his contemporaries regarding destruction and infertility. Doing so, he manages to translate meteorological effects into dramatic affects. As a play scrutinizing unbound and exacerbated feelings in a hot and moist environment, Anthony and Cleopatra is a case in point. It features a heroine whose passionate outbursts and erotic drives are related to broader geo-humoral concerns and climatic issues. In this paper, I first explore the destructive yet paradoxically creative power of the Nile to see how Shakespeare reworks Cleopatra’s liebestod before turning to the heroine’s boundless emotions. I then analyse Shakespeare’s vision of the boundless sky in a tragedy where, under the possible influence of Lucretius, the playwright changes the lovers’ fall into an apotheosis. All in all, I propose to decentre the traditional readings of the play. So far, Cleopatra has often been perceived as an unbound femme fatale while her Roman lover has repeatedly been regarded as the embodiment of inconstancy (“O, my oblivion is a very Anthony”, 1.3.91). Yet in the tragedy, I argue, versatility is first and foremost an environmental feature applying to Shakespeare’s Egypt.
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Contributor : Sophie Chiari <>
Submitted on : Monday, July 29, 2019 - 6:43:21 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 30, 2019 - 1:22:01 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-02196985, version 1

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Sophie Chiari. Overflowing the Measure: Cleopatra Unbound. Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare, Société Française Shakespeare, 2019, Shakespeare désenchaîné / Shakespeare Unbound, 37, ⟨https://journals.openedition.org/shakespeare/4397⟩. ⟨hal-02196985⟩



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