Death as the dramatic climax to a staged lifeBMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7408.220-a (Published 24 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:220
In Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen stages her own death by suicide from snakebite as the climax and apotheosis of a life that she engineers like consummate drama throughout the play. Magnificently attired and composed, as befits a queen, she envisages a transition to an afterlife in which she will be reunited with her lover, Antony, who has predeceased her. Her passage into immortality will bestow a quasi-mythical status of marriage on the two. She conjures up their grand passion and characterises herself in all her exotic, pagan glory in the first part of her farewell speech:
Give me my robe, put on my crown;
Immortal longings in me. Now no more
The juice of Egyverse-linet's graverse-linee shall moist this liverse-line.
Yare, yare, good Iras; quick. Methinks I hear
Antony call. I see him rouse himself
To praise my noble act. I hear him mock
The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men
To excuse their after wrath. Husband, I come.
Now to that name my courage verse-linerove my title!
I am fire and air, my other elements
I give to baser life. So, have you done?
Come then, and take the last warmth of my liverse-lines.
Farewell, kind Charmian. Iras, long farewell…