Cleopatra: The Defiance of Feminine Virtue

Gelsey Randazzo, St. John Fisher College


In lieu of an abstract, below is the essay's first paragraph.

William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is a tragic love story that interlaces empire and political responsibility with lust and licentious sexuality. Throughout the play, Cleopatra represents “otherness”. She is a woman of darker complexion in power and embodies her Orient empire. Cleopatra is belittled, humiliated, and degraded throughout the entirety of the play. These harsh representations along with her highly sexualized and manipulative nature make it difficult for her to succeed in a patriarchal society. Originally published in 1616 shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth, it is through Antony and Cleopatra that Shakespeare depicts many of the frequent anxieties held about women during this time period.