In sheer number of scenes, Antony and Cleopatra outstrips all other Shakespearean plays. Act V, scene ii, the longest scene in the play, is a mere 356 lines, a modest length compared to scenes in Shakespeare’s other tragedies. The shortness of the scenes compresses our sense of both space and time. First, geographically speaking, the play shuttles the audience from one end of the Roman Empire to another, from Rome to Athens to Syria to Alexandria. The global span of the scenes mirrors the play’s concern with the construction of an empire. Furthermore, the rapidly shifting scenes quicken the pace of the play and, with it, the audience’s sense of the passage of time. Although Antony and Cleopatra covers a period of ten years, we feel that events follow one another immediately. For example, Ventidius’s war against the Parthians takes no more time than Octavia’s fateful journey from Athens to Rome. This compression of time speeds us toward the play’s outcome, heightening the tragedy’s sense of inevitability.
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