Antony and Cleopatra: Reportage

Reportage is important in Shakespeare. We’ve seen this before: the bloody soldier’s description of the battle near the beginning of Macbeth; Gertrude’s report of the death of Ophelia in Hamlet. But here in Antony and Cleopatra, it just feels like there’s so much more…

We get quite a bit of information delivered through reportage:

  • The historical/military context delivered to Antony by the Messenger in Act One, Scene Two.
  • More news delivered to Octavian by the two messengers in Act One, Scene Four.
  • Alexas with the story of Antony’s pearl for Cleopatra in Act One, Scene Five.
  • News of Antony in Rome, delivered to Cleopatra in Act Two, Scene Five, with more of the same in Act Three, Scene Three.
  • Eros delivering military news to Enobarbus in Act Three, Scene Five.
  • Mardian delivering the (faked) news of Cleopatra’s death to Antony in Act Four, Scene Fourteen.
  • Dercetus delivering the (real) news of Antony to Octavian in Act Five, Scene One.

And this doesn’t even count the exposition found in more conversational speeches:

  • Enobarbus’ barge speech, delivered to Agrippa and Maecenas in Act Two, Scene Two.
  • Ventidius and Silius discussing recent military actions in Act Three, Scene One.
  • Antony’s delivery of military and political exposition to Octavia in Act Three, Scene Four.
  • Recapping events in Alexandria by Octavian in Act Three, Scene Six; and political alliances by Octavian to Octavia later in the same scene.
  • Enobarbus and Scarus discussing the results of the Battle of Actium in Act Three, Scene Ten.
  • Enobarbus giving the audience military updates in a soliloquy in Act Four, Scene Six.
  • Antony and Scarus discussing the results of the Battle of Actium in Act Four, Scene Twelve.

Maybe it’s just me, but this feels like more than the average…

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