Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Vivian L. Davis

Committee Member

William A. Quinn

Second Committee Member

Joseph Candido

Abstract

Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and John Dryden presented the character of Cleopatra differently, through both the written language of their pieces and their own and others’ performances of her, in order to meet the demands of their respective audiences and performance conditions. Chaucer, in “The Legend of Cleopatra,” portrays and performs Cleopatra comically. Shakespeare, in his Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, characterizes Cleopatra as a complex woman. In All for Love; or, The World Well Lost, Dryden characterizes Cleopatra as sentimental, but the performance of her on stage by female actresses added depth to the role. For Chaucer and Dryden, the performance is key to understanding their Cleopatras. For Shakespeare, however, the characterization of Cleopatra through language is more important. By investigating the performance conditions of the Late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Restoration while analyzing each of these pieces, I show how viewing these works through a lens of performance constructs a means through which modern audiences can understand each author’s Cleopatra.

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