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…