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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

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In this study I examine the origin, exchange, and circulation of language in Antony and Cleopatra, attempting to do something similar to what Stanley Cavell does in his reading of Coriolanus, '"Who Does the Wolf Loue?': Coriolanus and the Interpretations of Politics." Cavell describes his overall aim "as an attempt to get at the origin of words, not the origin of their meaning exactly but of their production, of the value they have when and as they occur". In his essay, he discusses language in terms that we may be more apt to associate with such things as money or food--terms such as circulation, distribution, and exchange. Because I rely quite heavily on similar terminology, I have adopted as an underlying metaphor the notion of a verbal economy. I try to use the word economy in its root sense-suggesting as it does management and direction--because, as I read the play, there is clearly 8 self-conscious effort on the part of the major characters to manage and direct the exchange and circulation of language. In chapter 1, I look in some detail at the efforts of Antony and Cleopatra to control the circulation of words in their individual exchanges with each other and with other characters. I expand the focus in chapter 2, moving from these localized efforts of the two protagonists to an analysis of the verbal economy on a much larger level, looking specifically at the circulation of messages, rumor, gossip, and stories. In chapter 3, I return to individual relations in the ploy, looking specifically at Antony's relations with Caesar, and Antony's relations with his own soldiers, to explore the binding and healing qualities that language has in the play. In the final chapter, I come full circle, returning to Antony and Cleopatra themselves, and Cleopatra's mighty effort to control and manage the story itself, the myth of Antony and Cleopatra.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616, Antony and Cleopatra -- Criticism and interpretation



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University