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Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra

5. The Divided Catastrophe

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About this Lecture


In this module, we concentrate on what’s known as the ‘divided catastrophe’ of Antony and Cleopatra – the fact that Antony kills himself with so much of the play left to run, with Cleopatra only joining him some 300 lines later. In particular, we compare and contrast the two suicide scenes: Antony’s, which is bungled and almost comic, Cleopatra’s, which is astonishingly serene.


In this course, we explore several aspects of Antony and Cleopatra. We begin by thinking about why Shakespeare was interested in writing plays that were set in Ancient Rome, before looking at a number of aspects of the play and its performance. In particular, we explore the play’s wide scope in both space and time, the roles of Antony and Cleopatra themselves, and the ‘divided catastrophe’ at the end of the play.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra - The Divided Catastrophe [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra – The Divided Catastrophe." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,