Date of Award
Dr. William Walsh
In 1603 the world as England knew it changed. After forty-five years Elizabeth I, Queen of England, and last surviving Tudor was dead and James VI of Scotland was ascending the throne. Despite several differences between the new king and the old queen, there were similarities in their patronage of the arts. Enthralled by theatrical performances, one of James' first acts as king was to offer royal patronage to William Shakespeare's theatre company and give them the title, The King's Men. But it is likely that James' love of the theatre wasn't his only reason for patronizing Shakespeare's theatre troupe.
According to David W. Bevington, Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago, Shakespeare's "men received the title of King's men in recognition not only of their talent but of their pro- Scottish dramatic activity" (23). Ascending the throne in a foreign country after a much beloved queen has passed away is no easy task. James needed all the help proving to the English people that he was worthy to rule them as an absolute monarch. And there was no better way to reach the people than through the pervasive art of theatrical performances which often, "performed editorial rather than newsgathering functions, and was in fact a "review" in the style of Punch, caricaturing everyone in public life" 12). Plays and theatrical performances were not in the business of reporting the news but rather critiquing and reviewing politically relevant events.
This paper seeks to explore the idea that Shakespeare's historical drama Antony and Cleopatra is in part a propaganda piece meant to bolster support for James while at the same time condemning Elizabeth's previous rule. This paper will first examine the role of theatre in conveying political ideas and the specific political causes Shakespeare was involved in. Focus will then shift to Shakespeare's work Antony and Cleopatra and the political ideologies conveyed in the work. Furthermore, the paper will specifically focus on the differences and similarities between the images of Cleopatra the character and Elizabeth the Queen. I argue that Cleopatra is constructed as an image of Elizabeth that at once condemns her reign and revels in it. Scholars have already done a broad amount of research and I go on to add my own interpretation of the play and the representations of Elizabeth as the character Cleopatra and James as the character Caesar.
Cubel, Ginnye, "The Stage is the Court and All the Players Merely Copies: Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra as Propaganda" (2012). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 139.