Valentina Rossi

«A Mirror for Magistrates». Ethics and the Practice of Power in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra

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Keywords: William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Deadly Sins, Cardinal Virtues, Kingship

The plays composed by Shakespeare after 1603 incorporate the principles of the new Stuart ideology, which celebrated James I as an enlightened ruler. In this respect, it is possible to read Antony and Cleopatra as a representation of the Stuart court’s rituals, its policy and its language. By offering a reading from a doctrinal perspective, this contribution aims to demonstrate how Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony mirror, respectively, the positive and negative qualities of the new English monarchy: the former embodies cardinal virtues as well as a model of conduct that a princeps must exhibit, if he wants to state his authority. Conversely, the latter illustrates the harmful consequences that a leader can cause when he is more focused upon quenching his vicious pleasures than managing power.

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