Abstract

This essay engages the historiography of Augustan Rome, the work of Walter Benjamin, and the Book of Revelation. It argues that Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra models two kinds of theater. The first kind of theater emerges from Caesar’s desire to “possess” time and is designed to extend and sustain the triumphal procession and subsequent imperium of Augustus. The second kind of theater is imaged in Cleopatra’s suicide, which is performed as her dramatized return to Cydnus to meet Mark Antony. The temporality of Cleopatra’s theater resonates with Walter Benjamin’s Theses ‘On the Concept of History’ and with biblical prophecy and eschatology. Whereas imperial theater fixes the record of the past into the present (and future), the theater of revelation resurrects past possibility as the condition for present hope.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-3555
Print ISSN
0037-3222
Pages
pp. 167-187
Launched on MUSE
2015-09-02
Open Access
No
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