Antony and Cleopatra: Freeing Cleopatra

For the last few days, I’ve been looking at the ladies of Antony and Cleopatra. First, it was Octavia (and then her more historical side); then it was Charmian. And now, well, it’s time for the big one.


But first just an interesting observation…

By now, you know I’m a numbers guy.

So check this out (and for the purposes of this entry, I’m using the texts at OpenSource Shakespeare, as I think their text breakdowns, search and concordance rock when it comes to “running the numbers”):

Cleopatra has 204 speeches in the play; Antony 202 (while that seems equitable, remember that Antony doesn’t appear in the final, 442-line fifth act). Of her 204 speeches, 110 appear in the back half of the play (after the midpoint at Act Three, Scene Six, line 36). Of Antony’s speeches, they are split almost equally–102 in the first half, 100 in the second (though remember, he’s gone for that last act).

Cleopatra has the fourth and fifth longest speeches in the play (sorta, but more on that in a minute).

But what’s really interesting is where (or rather when) those speeches are delivered. The longest of hers (at 19 lines) is her final goodbye to her attendants in Act Five, Scene Two. And tied with that one is her statement of purpose and resolve over the body of Antony in Act Four, Scene Fifteen.

And that should be your clue.

Her three longest speeches (including her greeting of Octavian in the final scene) all occur after Antony’s death…the death of the character with the three longest speeches in the play (“All is lost” in Act Four, Scene Twelve [22 lines], “No more light answers” in Act One, Scene Two [21], and “Unarm me, Eros” in Act Four, Scene Fourteen [20]).

Is his death a kind of release from verbal bondage for her?

Note: if we take the three sections of Enobarbus’ barge speech as a single entity (he’s interrupted by only Agrippa’s four- and two-word interjections–neither of which constituting a full line), then his speech is a relatively whopping (but not all that impressive) 37 lines.

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