By Claudia A.
What is Feminism?
• Feminism is the commitment to achieving the
equality of the sexes. This is not exclusive to
women, as while males are seen as the
dominant sex, they too need help in
overcoming these restrictive roles that deprive
them to express their true self’s.
Antony and Cleopatra
• Antony and Cleopatra can be seen in terms of
gender and its associations with societal power
• Fitz’s article on Shakespeare’s ‘Quarterly’ for
1977, he commented that ‘male critics feel
personally threatened by Cleopatra and what she
represents to them.’(298)
This is because the Cleopatra that Shakespeare has
portrayed is a very complex character who both
enchants, yet startles the audience.
Critics, including Wilders, have remarked that Shakespeare's Rome
is a masculine and pragmatic city. However his Alexandrian Egypt,
in contrast, is feminine, domestic, decadent, and individualistic,
linked with pleasure.
She is contrasted with many individuals such as Antony and
Caesar, who are both associated with masculine features and a
competitive drive to dominate the Empire. However many
feminist critics claim that she represents an all- She embraces
the feminine and the masculine, refusing to be subsumed by
one or the other.
Many critics argue that in this play, where Shakespeare again explores the idea of the
victim within a patriarchal society, some argue that the true victim of this tragedy is
He is stifled by the rules of the patriarchal society of Rome that only expects him to show
his masculine side only, and to never adopt ‘feminine’ qualities such as passion, emotion
and love, showing how little control Antony has over his life.
However, after finding a power love with Cleopatra, Antony is unable to accept the
‘business first’ principle of the patriarchal laws, alas, the tragedy starts.
It is claimed by many modern critics that Shakespeare was a feminist.
Shapiro for example, claims that Shakespeare was ‘the noblest feminist of them all’.
However many disagree with this, as Baker claims that ‘it is historically incorrect to
regard him as a feminist. I believe that Shakespeare because of his extraordinary
genius for portraying human behavior, necessarily depicted the condition of women
within a patriarchal system and created women characters which in their richness,
transcend the limitations of his time.