Journal Article

<i>Antony and Cleopatra</i>, Mankiewicz and the Sublime Object

Simon J. Ryle

in Adaptation

Volume 4, issue 1, pages 66-107
Published in print March 2011 | ISSN: 1755-0637
Published online October 2010 | e-ISSN: 1755-0645 | DOI:
Antony and Cleopatra, Mankiewicz and the Sublime Object

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The absence of Cleopatra from Enobarbus’ poetic depiction of diegetic place in Antony and Cleopatra offers concise exemplification of the problems a conventional, photographically realistic film faces in screening Shakespeare’s narrative spaces. This essay uses Cleopatra’s rupturing absence as entry point into the problematic relation of film space and Shakespeare’s poetic images to investigate desire and narrative space in Antony and Cleopatra and Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963). What happens to desire when film intervenes into the scene of Shakespeare’s ruptured space? And, of central importance to this essay, how do Hollywood’s phallocentric conventions of visual pleasure accommodate and transform the sublime female at the heart of Shakespeare’s play? This article investigates the relation of its primary texts to Jacques Lacan’s topography of desire, both in film theory, in Stephen Heath’s delineation of suture as the alienating imaginary closure of the wound of cinematic signification that would sublimate spectatorial desire to the screen image, and in Slavoj Žižek’s notion of interspace as the structural distance necessary to facilitate perception of the sublime object. This article is centrally focussed on the complicated question of how film remediation activates in reinscriptive representation an afterlife of new meanings in, and from, Shakespeare’s verse, an area surprisingly under-investigated by Shakespeare film scholarship. Via investigation of desire and narrative space in Antony and Cleopatra and Cleopatra, it is with the question of how such research might proceed that this essay concerns itself.

Keywords: Shakespeare; Mankiewicz; Antony and Cleopatra; narrative space; desire; sublime object

Journal Article.  19929 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film ; Television ; Literature

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