Monday, 8 January 2018

Van Gogh and the Seasons



Ironically, after returning from Europe and seeing the Van Gogh collection in Paris and Amsterdam, the National Gallery of Victoria decided that their next winter exhibition would be on Van Gogh. Well, I guess you can't get too much of Van Gogh (even though I have already written two posts on the guy). So, even though I had seem a number of his works (though I have yet to see Starry Night, which I believe is in New York), I decided that it wouldn't hurt to go and see another exhibition.

Well, it turned out that I wasn't the only one who had that idea, though I probably shouldn't be all that surprised when it comes to Van Gogh. Also, since it was on a weekend it was also going to be quite problematic. Unfortunately the short amount of time that I have for lunch wouldn't accommodate the tram ride to the museum, a quiet flutter through the exhibition, and back to work (and I suspect that the quick flutter would have been something like five or ten minutes). So, I suspect I spent something like an hour in line, and when we actually got into the exhibition we were jostling through hundreds of people. Still, I was able to experience the exhibition.

Basically, as the name suggests, the exhibition is about the seasons. However, the concept of the season is more than simply the seasons of the year - it can also reflect the seasons of one's life. When he was in the Hague, Van Goth explored the idea of the seasons of life through a series of works, particularly looking at the common man. This was something that he would take through his own life, and develop as his art developed.

The Engravings

I would say that the exhibition opened with the engravings, but with most of these exhibitions it opened with Van Gogh's life. Well, I have already written on his life, and his madness, so I won't repeat myself here. Anyway, the exhibition basically breezed through that as well, though most of the people who came to the exhibition probably know little about Van Gogh's life other than the fact that he was a painter, he cut off his ear, and that he wore a straw hat (oh, and had a beard).


However, once I had passed that brief introduction (and basically skipped the introduction video), I came to the first part of the exhibition - the engravings. During his time in the Hague, and earlier, Van Gogh would collect images and engravings that inspired him, and hang them on the walls of his studio. These he would reflect upon as he developed his art. In fact his art tended to move with his own mental state at the time, meaning that during his religious youth his art would have a distinct religious flavour.

Anyway, a number of these engravings were on display - it should be noted that that these are actually prints, and not the original engraving. Engravings were a method of mass producing art, and these were only copies as opposed to the original. Sticking with the theme of the seasons, each of these engravings represented one of the seasons (though there were quite a few of these engravings on display).


This is The Sower by Clement Bellenger. The sowing season begins around April, at a time when the weather conditions are ripe for crops. During winter it is obviously not a good time to have seeds in the ground as it tends to be covered in snow, so this was set during the spring, after the frost has finally dried and the rains are started to appear. No doubt the seasons are different in other places where it doesn't snow (such as Southern Europe and Australia).

This engraving is called 'A Winter's Morning' by Edward Duncan. While the image is black and white, it still portrays the bleak and dreary nature of a European winter. The sheep are huddled together for warmth, and the trees are bare. The sky is also quite bleak and cloudy, and smoke plumes rise from the huts in the distance. This is the life of those who are on the land.


Another engraving by Edward Bellenger, this one is called The Potato Harvest. Notice how we aren't looking at the aristocracy or the wealthy middle class, but peasant women performing backbreaking work. The artists of this time are reminding us of the people who work hours on end simply to put food on our table - their roles are just as important as those of us who sit behind desks, and in a way more so, yet they don't seem to be appreciated as much. It makes me think of some of our prayers where we thank God for the food on our table as if it magically appeared there, and pay little head to the farmers to spend their lives making sure that we are fed.


This is called Thrashing by Charles Emile Jacque. Like the others we once again see peasants hard a work creating the bread that will sooner or later appear on our tables. Okay, things aren't done this way anymore, but this is something that many of the modern artists were exploring - the hidden people that exist behind our comfortable lives. In many ways this type of work is viewed as being unskilled, manual labour that anybody can do, yet it is work that is back breaking and incredibly tiring. The artist no doubt were paying homage to these ordinary people.

Japanese Prints

When Van Gogh arrived in Antwerp he discovered the beauty of Japanese art. In fact the docks of Antwerp were swarming with examples of Japanese woodblock prints. Japanism, as it was called, was very popular among the artist world at the time, and it was something that would influence Van Gogh for the rest of his life. When he moved to Paris he began to look around him through the eyes of the Japanese artists, and upon leaving Paris for the country, he began to view colour differently. In a way, it was the works of the Japanese artists that had the greatest influence on Van Gogh' work, and he even collected up to 500 Japanese engravings, which are now on display in the museum in Amsterdam.


This piece is by the Japanese artist Hiroshige and is called Mount Fuji from the Fields. The following pieces are examples of the Japanese art that inspired Van Gogh, and are all on display at the National Gallery of Victoria. Notice the vivid colours of this piece, and the flowers almost taking our eyes off Mount Fuji in the distance.


This work is called Washing by the River which is also by Hiroshige. Since the exhibition was about the seasons, the Japanese collection was also divided into seasons. This artwork was painted during the autumn, and like the engravings, shows ordinary people going about their daily business. Once again it also shows the difficulties of the period since they did not have modern conveniences such as washing machines.


Another work by Hiroshige, this one called Gion Shrine in the Snow. No doubt this work represents winter, and here we have the women scurrying about as the snow falls and the cold begins to bite. While I'm not all that knowledgeable with Japanese culture, it certainly seems as if these women are not dressed for the snow. However, even though the snow covers everything, the colours still stand out, particularly of the woman's clothes. Even in the heart of winter is colour still noticeable.


Well, I probably shouldn't be surprised that even in Japan during the heat of summer we will find people down at the beach, and even swimming in the ocean, as this work by Hiroshige called Seven Mile Beach shows. Actually, I assumed (quite wrongly obviously) that the tradition of going to the beach and going for a swim was only something that us moderns did, but it seems that people have been looking for ways to cool off for centuries. However, it is noticeable that the people in this work do seem to be of the upper classes.


So we now return to autumn with Eisen's Plum Garden in Edo. The seasons change, but in a way they always go in a cycle. The heat of the summer has gone, and people are now preparing for the winter. The trees have lost their leaves, and everybody is hurrying about making sure they are stocked up. The wind is beginning to bite, and once again we are back to where we started.

Autumn

Van Gogh's favourite season was said to have been autumn, no doubt because of all the bright colours in the trees and the that leaves slowly fall in preparation for winter. However, even though he may have preferred autumn, he found beauty in all of the seasons. Yet, whenever autumn approached, Van Gogh would get excited at the arrival of the vivid colours. He noted that while the old masters seemed to ignore autumn, many of his contemporaries indulged in its beauty. During this time Van Gogh would wander through the tree lined streets, and many of his paintings, particularly the still lifes, would reflect the fruit of the harvest. As such the NGV decided to begin their exhibition of Van Gogh's art during the autumn.


This is one of Van Gogh's earlier works called 'A Shepherd and his Flock'. He would spend time wandering through the country and took particular interest in the people around there. Once again we have the forgotten people being brought to life through the art of Van Gogh. The painting not only represents the Autumn, but also the hard working tendency of the Dutch people. Yet the darker and gloomier nature of this work is in contrast to many of Van Gogh's later works. Van Gogh has intended to send a batch of these paintings to Paris, yet his brother Theo believed that due to their dark colours they would be hard to sell.


As we are aware, Van Gogh first traveled to Antwerp to study art but the lure of Paris soon caught him (as it does many of us) and he found himself down in the artist's colony of Montmatre. Well, despite it's bohemian nature even back then it was still a drawcard for the tourists. The above painting is called 'Terrace Cafe on Montmatre' and is reflective of his changing style, but at a time where he had resisted the lure of taking on the mantle of the impressionists


Thus we now come to some classic Van Gogh with a painting called 'Pine Trees at Sunset'. This was painted during his time at the asylum in St Remy, and was painted six months before his death. Van Gogh had a special fascination with pine trees, seeking to capture their spiritual and anthropomorphic nature. The trees that had been battered by the Autumn winds, no doubt a reflective of his state at the time, a man who had also been battered by the harsh winds of life, and looking as if winter was closing in ever more.

Winter

Winter is generally considered to be harsh and inhospitable, and in many cases is portrayed as such (though not always, as was the case of the painting where Schedlt froze over and children were skating on the ice). Yet Van Gogh never saw such things as cut and dry - there were layers to the seasons, even seasons as harsh as the winter. In a way the winter represented a world asleep, blanketed by snow, with the promise of a new dawn, and new life just around the corner. In a way it is a part of the cycle, a cycle that constantly renews itself.


This is called 'Snow Covered Field' and is actually a copy of a painting by Millett and was done when Van Gogh was in St Remy. The thing with this copy that is Van Gogh sought to add some colour. Many artists simply saw the snow, and the winter in general, as a blanket of white with skeletal trees and frozen paddocks. However Van Gogh looked beneath this illusion to see life, and colour in this dreary landscape. Notice how the farming tools have been left buried under the snow - there is more to this winter landscape than snow and frost.


I just noticed that there wasn't a huge collection under the winter section, though that may have had something to do with the paintings the NGV was able to get their hands on. However, they did talk about a painting similar to the above, called 'Miners in the Snow'. Once again we see Van Gogh looking at the working class, and the harsh life that they live. Mining has never been an easy job (though these days is quite profitable), and the harsh nature of the profession is exacerbated by the harsh climate that we see in the winter.

Spring

The winter is over and the new life that is the spring time is beginning to show itself. In a way the spring is a symbol of a new beginning and of a new life. Yet in the early years Van Gogh still used his dark hues to create his spring time works. It could be suggested that while the new life was coming about, the darkness of the winter months had yet to be banished. However, when Van Gogh moved down to Arles, this was just before the beginning of the spring, and it was a time when some of his more famous works were produced. He also wanted to experiment with the trypich, a three panel work which was reflective of his religious influences from his younger days (and there is something that you do see in quite a number of museums and churches around Europe).


The above is another one of Van Gogh's peasant paintings from his earlier years. He preferred to wander around the fields and use real peasants as his inspiration as opposed to models from other areas. Then again Van Gogh was never one for painting from his imagination. During his earlier years, when he was exploring the world of art, he would wonder around the fields, and studied the life cycle of the far. When he took Antoon Hermans, a wealthy amateur painter, on as an apprentice, he was commissioned to decorate his house, and Van Gogh's suggestion was to have a painting representing different seasons on each of the four walls of the dining room. However, these paintings went missing after Herman's death.


The above is called 'Tree Trunks in the Grass' and was the first painting that he painted after coming out of isolation from the asylum in Arles. Basically he had locked himself away due to his inability to deal with the outside world, and I have to admit that I do sympathise with him - the outside world, and other people, can be very difficult to deal with at the best of times, and while there are some people who thrive upon human contact, there are others, like Van Gogh (and myself) who at times want to keep it to a minimum. The interesting thing about this painting is that it is a close up of the group, and much of the scene is actually cut away so as to only focus on this part of the view.


While in Arles, Van Gogh went for a trek south to Saint Marie de la mer (Saint Marie on the Sea). While he was only here for a short time, he used this time to reinforce the beauty of the Japanese wood carvings that he so loved, as well as capturing the vivid colours of the region. In a way this trip inspired him somewhat, and that is what I've noticed that travel can do - inspire us - since it takes us out of our dreary day to day live and into another world.

Summer

Van Gogh wasn't the first to see the idea of the cycle in wheat, and that summer, the time for harvesting the wheat, as being a high point of the year. This idea of the cycle has been with us since ancient times, and even appears in Christianity, which Christ comparing his death and resurrection to the wheat having to die to produce seeds to bring about a new crop of wheat, and the bread forming the centre piece of Holy Communion. However, Van Gogh also saw the world in terms of colours, and saw the summer as being a contrast of deep blues with the gold and orange of the swaying wheat fields. As for the workers in the fields, he saw something unique, and vivid, about them - they are performing an essential function in harvesting the wheat so that it may be turned into bread. This no doubt continued to impress upon him as he moved into regional France to areas such as Arles, where he continued to witness the cycles of the seasons culminating in the harvests of the summer.
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The above painting has an almost religious significance. It is the culmination of the labourer's work - the production of the wheat that has been collected and brought together, ready to be taken back to the mill for processing. However, it is not just the results of the fruits of one's labour, but also a blessing from God, the fruit of the Earth, which will eventually become food that sits upon everybody's table. That simple loaf of bread that is handed out at restaurants is actually the product of days, weeks, and even months of work.


The interesting thing about the above painting, which was painted in Arles, is that almost half of the painting is taken up by Earth and stubble. This is one of Van Gogh's major themes, that of the wheat field, but not just that but also the harvested wheat, which is the end product of the cycle, where the land has been fruitful and have brought forth its crops. Here the wheat is wrapped up and ready to be shipped off.


For the final painting, what best to look at Wheatfields and Cypress, which was the main piece advertised by the exhibition. This was painted in 1889, after Van Gogh had been released from the asylum for a short time. Here he discovered a new focus of his art, the evergreen cypress. These trees were planted to protect the fields from the elements, however Van Gogh saw them as imposing figures, almost like an Egyptian obelisk. These trees subsequently appear in many of his other works, including Starry Night.

Yet notice the beauty of this work, the contrasting colours, and the waves of the clouds and the fields. This work captures an image that is truly only Van Gogh's view of the world, an almost romanticised world of colour and beauty, where the ordinary takes on a much more prominant role, and has an almost religious significance.

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Van Gogh and the Seasons by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Monday, 1 January 2018

Anthony and Cleopatra - The Old vs the New



It seems that I have been seeing quite a few Shakesperian plays of late, namely because not only have I moved to Melbourne where there happens to be more in the way of theatre (though Adelaide does have the occasional play come through, and they also do have the odd productions during the Fringe as well as their own version of Shakespeare in the park), but also because the Stage to Screen productions, and the National Theatre Live productions, have meant that I have had much more of an opportunity than I have had in the past. Mind you, that doesn't include the various DVDs that I have, which includes a box set that I picked up in London from The Globe (which I have yet to get around to watching any of them).

The problem is that Shakespeare can be incredibly draining at times, namely because the language is not just incredibly flowery and poetic, but also because it is somewhat archaic. In a sense it seems that you feel that parts of the play are simply dragging on way too long, and really want the characters to either hurry up or get to the point. Mind you, Shakespeare isn't about getting to the point though, if you want something that gets to the point you might as well go and watch a random action movie starring Vin Diesel. No, Shakespeare isn't about getting to the point, it is about the various characters pouring out their hearts and their emotions, and for the tragedy of the circumstance to hit us (if the play is a tragedy of course).


Thus so we come to Anthony and Cleapatra, a play that until recently I have only had the chance to read, though at the beginning of this production we were taken through the various productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company going back to at least the 1970s. At first I thought that maybe this wasn't all that popular a play, but I suspect it may have something to do with where one happens to live (an in Australia you generally only get productions of Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, and if you are lucky, King Lear). Yet the story seems to stick in my mind in the same way that Julius Caeser does, and as I was watching the play unfold I couldn't help but think back to when I was a child having the knowledge that Cleopatra was the most beautiful woman in the world.

I guess we have William Shakespeare to thank for that, though of course Cleopatra is only one in a long line of Egyptian Queens who have that name. Yet like the knowledge of Julius Caesar's assassination, and the betrayal by his friend Brutus, even if we haven't seen the play, the knowledge of it sits with out collective conscious. Mind you, a lot of my early knowledge of Cleopatra, and Ancient Rome, actually comes from the Asterix comics (and as a kid we loved our Asterix and Tintin comics). Of course, Cleopatra does make an appearance in the comics in one where Asterix and Obelix travel to Egypt to help Cleopatra win a bet against Caeser as to who are the better builders - Egypt or Rome. The one thing that I took away from that story was that she happened to have had an enchanting nose.


An Ancient Scandal

Well, I'm not sure if one could consider the affair between Anthony and Cleopatra to be all that scandalous, though in a way it was in the eyes of Octavian Caesar who was trying to implement a system of family values among Rome's upper classes. Anyway, the story begins after the second-triumvirate succeed in their war against the conspirators and opens in Egypt with Anthony and Cleopatra engaged in a steamy love affair. While one may wonder how it is that he ended up here, the reason is not really addressed in the confines of the play (though we can always go to Plutarch for the answers). While there he receives news of his wife's death and must hurry back to Rome, much to Cleopatra's distress. The thing that struck me here, as Cleopatra sat on her throne pining for Mark Anthony, was that this wasn't a simply two week trip and he would be back - the journey to Rome from Egypt was a long, and treacherous, journey, and a round trip could take months. In this world patience really needed to be a virtue.

However, while there Anthony marries' Octavian's sister so that they become brothers, but there is always a desire to return to Egypt to be with Cleopatra. However, news eventually reaches Alexandria and Cleopatra is shattered, believing that all is lost. Yet it is not so because Mark Anthony eventually leaves Rome and returns to Cleopatra's embrace. This is where the scandal arises because it is not any woman that Anthony is cheating on, it is Octavian's sister, and this he takes with a huge offence. It is clear by this time that the Triumvirate is starting to fracture, and once again we find ourselves in the midst of a civil war, one that results in both Anthony and Cleopatra's death, and Octavian assuming the role of Imperator of Rome.


One thing that stood out particularly was the choice of actor for the character of Cleopatra. No doubt most of the previous productions basically had an Anglo-American actress, however here the producers have cast Josette Simon in the role, which gives the play a much more realistic, and exotic, flavour. A part of me doubts that Cleopatra would have been fair skinned, though we must remember also that she was a Ptolemy, which meant that she was Greek. Yet the Ptolemy's, while being Greek, were also very Egyptian in character. Yet by giving the Egyptian characters a more Middle Eastern/African feel to them adds an element of realism to the production.

Okay, while I do have a version of Anthony & Cleopatra on DVD, as performed at The Globe, the other thing that stood out about this particular play is that every version is different, and while I might watch a version performed by The Globe, the version performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company is going to be vastly different to the one at the Globe (which I haven't had the opportunity to see yet). One thing that was impressive was how they did the Battle of Actium, probably the last great sea battle of the Ancient World. Basically they had a number of model ships on the stage, and the various actors who then picked them up and run around with them while music played in the background. Like other plays that I have seen, such as a depiction of the battle of Agincourt in Henry V, the way that such huge battles are staged also adds a lot to the play.

An Ancient Land

The play is set in both Egypt and Rome, and in a way what we see is a conflict between the old and the new. Rome represents the new power that is sweeping the land, while Egypt is an Ancient Land whose history dates back eons. Even then, Egypt has fallen, risen, fallen, and risen over the centuries so that there really isn't one specific kingdom that one could call Egypt. While in our mind the Egypt of the Pyramids and the Egypt of the Valley of the Kings is one and the same, they reality is that they are not. The Egypt that was ruled by Rameses II is not the same Egypt that was ruled by Cheops (the builder of the Pyramids). Further, the Egypt of the Lighthouse and the Great Library is another Egypt entirely - Ptolemaic Egypt - which as I have mentioned about, is actually Greek with an Egyptian flavour to it.

In one way the world used to be centered around the Egytian Empire, but the world back then was an incredibly small world. Sure, Google Maps may suggest that the time it takes to walk from Egypt to Israel is nowhere near the Forty years that the Bible claims that the Hebrews took to cross the desert, the people who made that connection either haven't read their Bible, or are simply looking for any old excuse to debunk the text without actually critically considering what they are saying (for instance, wandering in the desert does not indicate a straight line; also, Google Maps claims that it will take me 24 days to travel from Adelaide to Darwin by foot, but does not take into account that I am wandering through a desert, and the 24 days is basically walking non-stop - if I broke it down to 8 hour days, then it blows out to something like 72).


It seems like I have gone off on a bit of a tangent here, though going back to the play, if we don't go as far back to the Egypt of the Pharoahs, and simply consider the Egypt of the Ptolemy's in one way we are still looking at an empire in decline. Egypt was probably the last frontier on the Mediterranean, though at that time it was a Roman protectorate. However Ptolemaic Egypt was for a time the centre of arts and culture around the world - this was the result of the creation of the Great Library - all the scholars and philosophers of the day made their way to Alexandria as this was pretty much where they could learn the best. In that sense Alexandria had replaced Athens. However, Rome was very much on the rise, and in the preceding century had pretty much conquered the entire Mediterranean coast. The glory days of Ptolemaic Egypt were behind them, and the Great Library had already been destroyed in a fire. This was now a time for them to step aside an allow a new empire to take hold.

Passing of the Old Guard

Okay, while Mark Athony was still one of the rulers of Rome, it also seemed that it was time for him to step aside for some of the younger blood. While Octavian was around during Caesar's assassination, he was not one of the major players. It was Mark Anthony who took the centre stage, and who formed the second triumvirate to fight and defeat the conspirators. However, come now we discover an older Mark Anthony, one who has fought his wars, and is wanting to take it easy and relax. Yet the play opens with a suggestion of a debaucherous party - this isn't a question of love, this is a question of lust. In one sense, as the old that is the queen of Egypt comes to the new, the Triumvirate of Rome, we also have the old guard sitting down to spend his golden years in ease.

Yet we must remember that Cleopatra is still a queen, and in taking Anthony as her lover, he becomes a king - this is an insult in the face of Octavian because it comes across as if Anthony is setting himself up to be a rival to his power, and we are also in Egypt, which is sufficiently far away - if he wanted to launch a takeover, building up an army in Egypt would be the sensible, and a most strategic thing to do. In fact I believe that Pompey established a base in Egypt during the Civil War. In one sense Octavian is on the rise (and Lepidus, the third leg of the Triumvirate, is fading further and further to the back), and conflict with Mark Anthony is inevitable.



This is the problem of the political situation of Rome - in one sense they want stability, but in another sense they do not want an entrenched autocrat. This is why they went down the road of the Triumvirates, but the problem with them was that both times they ended in Civil War, as is the case here. The second Triumvirate falls apart and both Anthony and Octavian come to blows at Actium. Here Octavian wins, but Anthony wins the second battle, but it is a hollow victory as by the third battle Anthony's troops had deserted him, leaving his stranded and alone.

A More Mature Love

The director, in an interview before the play, suggested that Anthony & Cleopatra was a more mature love as opposed to that of Romeo and Juliet. In a way I would say yes, but I would also say no. One of the reasons is that young love tends to be a lot more pure, and a lot more innocent, where as the older one gets, the more jaded one gets. Yet there is also an essence of debauchery here - when one is young it seems that one is a lot more innocent, and in a way the love is much more pure, yet here it seems to be driven by sensual desire - both Anthony and Cleopatra are much older than our other heroes, which gives it a much different aspect.

Yet one cannot escape the similarities between the end of both plays - we have one pretend to be dead, so the other kills themselves, only for us to learn that they aren't really dead, but when they find out that their lover is dead they end up killing themselves - and the play ends. In both plays there is poison, Cleopatra kills herself with an asp, while poison is used in Romeo and Juliet (though since I haven't seen the play for a very long time, thanks to Baz Luhrman and Leonardo Di Caprio, I can't say for sure).



Also, there is this question of forbidden love - Romeo & Juliet come from houses who are at war with each other, while Mark Anthony is married, not just to any woman but to Octavian's sister. Then there is the question of them establishing themselves as King and Queen of Egypt. This isn't so much an aspect of the forbidden love, but rather an inevitable consequence of the affair. While one might look at them and say, they are having an affair - who cares. Well, we do, and so does Octavian. Remember, there was this desire to rid Rome of its vice and debauchery, and reintroduce some family values into the middle and upper classes, and having Anthony, one of the rulers, run off and do this really doesn't help with this.

Yet I am not so sure whether I can really consider this to be debauchery. In a way I don't necessarily think it is. Maybe at first it is - Mark Anthony is just taking it easy - but he is called back to Rome, and is married to Octavian's sister. In a way Cleopatra should be gone and forgotten - sure she is pining for him, but the fact the Anthony returns to Egypt to embrace his love shows that he actually does rather than it simply being some debaucherous night out. No, this is serious, serious enough for Anthony to not only betray his friend, but also run the risk of earning the enmity of the empire - which he eventually does.

A Brutal Death


The one final thing I wish to touch upon is how long it actually takes for somebody to die in Shakespeare. In one sense they talk, and talk, and talk, and stab themselves, and then continue to talk. A part of me wanted to scream out 'die already - enough with this waffling'. Yet, I think we forget how serious Shakespeare takes the death of a major character. Sure, in our post-modern cinematic culture, people die left right and centre on the screens, yet even in Hollywood the death of a major character is significant. In reality, when a major character dies, there is an entire scene devoted to the character's death. It made me think of a series that I just finished watching (the Sarah Conner Chronicles), and how half way through the second to last episode one of the major characters is suddenly shot in the head - that's it, nothing more, he's dead. To be honest with you, it sucked, and sucked big time.

This is why Mark Anthony, and Cleopatra (and many of Shakespeare's other characters) take so long to die, and that is because not only is the character significant, but death is significant. Death is final, and permanent - it is the end. To cheapen it the way we have done in modern films really doesn't do it justice. This is the nature of what is termed a mook - a character that exists in a film, or show, simply to get shot and to die. This is not what death is about, and it is why characters in plays beat and moan, and wail, when they are dying, because they aren't mooks - they are significant. In fact every human being is significant, though to attach a depth of personality to every single character that is killed in your typical action movie does have the potential to really do your head in.



Yet this is the problem with the modern world - we some how cheapen the death of certain segments of society, or even the world. If somebody where to die in our home town then it is a travesty, yet hundreds of thousands of people die daily around the world, and we basically shut it out of our minds. However, this is something that is beginning to change - the opponents of the Iraq War went to great pains to document each and every civilian death that occurred because of the invasion. It is not just soldier's, but civilians as well. Yet, in many cases we still go about our daily lives, as if the problems on the other side of the world are either too far away, or just too difficult for one person to fix.

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Anthony and Cleopatra - The Old vs the New by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me