11 October 2018, The Tablet

Fake news and truth in Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre

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Fake news and truth in Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre

Sophie Okonedo (centre) as Cleopatra hits every note of sex, power, humour, insecurity, caprice and pretence
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Although aspiring dramatists are generally instructed to “show not tell”, the greatest playwright of all stubbornly does the opposite for three hours in Antony and Cleopatra.

Shakespeare delivers every key development through reported speech. The evidence for Cleopatra’s allure comes in 40 famous lines of awed recall – “The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, burned on the water” – delivered by Enobarbus, Antony’s wingman, to Caesar’s sidekick, Agrippa. And all the most important data – the state of Antony’s two marriages, his betrayal by Enobarbus, the health of the title characters – is relayed rather than staged.

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