A Site

Antony and Cleopatra summary available at eNotes.

Solar and Lunar Imagery

In the final scene of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen relates the contents of dream to Dolabella in which her deceased paramour appeared to her as the Emperor of the world. She describes her fallen consort's visage: "His face was as the heav'ns, and therein stuck/A sun and moon, which kept their course and lighted/The little 0, th1 earth/" (V, ii, 11.79-81). Cleopatra's depiction of Antony embodying the sun and the moon is but one of the many instances in which Shakespeare uses solar and lunar imagery to underscore the play's principal thematic concerns. Throughout the text, Cleopatra is figuratively identified with the "fickle" moon, most frequently through associations with the goddess of the moon, Isis. In complementary fashion, Antony is often identified with the "constant" sun. These tandem image clusters reinforce our sense of the cosmic stature attributed to both Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare. They also correlate with the play's theme of time, particularly the tension between the inevitable passage of the sun and moon in their daily marches and the tragic desire of both Antony and Cleopatra to somehow control or disregard time. Moreover, the conjunction of solar and lunar images is emblematic of human nature as Shakespeare shows it to us in Antony and Cleopatra: both of the lovers display a combination of the fickle and the constant. In the end, it is fitting that the deaths of both Antony and Cleopatra are framed by references to twilight, for both exhibit a combination of solar and lunar traits. Throughout the text Cleopatra is symbolically identified with the fickle moon through the medium of Isis. This association is first broached by Cleopatra's maid, Charmian in Act I, scene ii (11.64-70), but the strongest expression comes in Act III, scene vi. At that juncture, Caesar rages against Antony's division of territory to his heirs and notes that on the day when Antony proclaimed these kings. Cleopatra was garbed in the habiliments of the goddess Isis. (1.17). Cleopatra herself acknowledges the connection. She ultimately refers to it when she decides to shed her fickle ways and embrace death rather than be "beclouded" by Rome's vulgar rabble: "My resolution's placed, and I have nothing/Of woman in me: now head to foot/I am marble constant: now the fleeting moon/No planet is of mine/" (V, ii.238-241). In parallel manner, Antony is closely identified with the sun. The first association of the Roman general with the solar orb occurs as he prepares to leave Cleopatra in Act I, scene iii and swears, "by the fire/That quickens the Nilus slime, I go from hence" (11.69-70). When Antony learns that he has been betrayed by that "triple-turned whore" Cleopatra, he too tries to discards his connection to his ruling planet, exclaiming, "O, sun, thy uprise I shall see no more/Fortune and Antony part here" (IV, xii, 18-19).

Featured Links:

More on lunar imagery and religion at meta-religion.

Interesting read on religion and science at this site..

A short note Antony and Cleopatra at this site.




NEW - Featured Sonnet Essay: Shakespeare's Career as a "Sonneteer"

Shakespeare Sonnets home.

New Essays on Shakespeare's work at Shakespeare-Sonnets. Click on any links below:

Looking for Shakespeare quotes? Check out Shakespeare Quotes at eNotes.


© 2021