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Hooks, R.M. (1987). Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra: Power and Submission. Am. Imago, 44(1):37-49.

(1987). American Imago, 44(1):37-49

Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra: Power and Submission

Roberta M. Hooks

Antony and Cleopatra has earned high praise for its lyrical effusions but has generally been thought lacking in psychological insights and tragic stature, and A. C. Bradley did not include it in his Shakespearian Tragedy. Coppelia Khan's comprehensive study of the vicissitudes of male identity in Man's Estate also omits discussion of the important thematics in Antony's development. Generally critics have viewed its mixtures of sensuality, comedy and irony as the stuff of romance rather than of tragedy.

These readings can be enhanced by a view of the mother-child boundary dilemma as the model for the complications and unresolved tensions of adult sexuality in the play.1 The twin poles of Antony's mid-life crisis oscillate between the need to renounce desire in the adult world in favor of a political reality and a greater compulsion to submit to an Egyptian fantasy that, despite its appearance, is oral rather than genital. The psychosis at the core of the play involves issues of differentiation from a maternal environment and the difficulties of maintaining an integrated, reality-oriented perspective toward the love object. What Melanie Klein termed the “depressive phase” where the self's capacity to recognize objects as separate and distinct from the self's parameters, an ability learned in the weaning process, is largely absent in the dynamics of both Antony and Cleopatra.


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