Antony and Cleopatra is one of the great tragedies produced by William Shakespeare. The main setting of the play is the Roman Empire, and the plot is mainly based on the history of Octavius Caesar, Marc Anony and Cleopatra. This play starts after Octavius Caesar, Marc Antony and Lepidus become three rulers of the Roman Empire. Antony falls in love with the queen of Egypt—Cleopatra, and stays in Alexandria. In the play, the conflict between Antony and Octavius, Antony’s affection and reason, finally turns into an inevitable tragedy. Antony dies, while Cleopatra commits suicide.
This play not only depicts typical main characters such as Antony, Cleopatra and Octavia with strong personality and tragic fate, but also indicates universal themes throughout the whole plot. Themes such as struggle between one’s affection and reason, war and love, seduction and sexuality can be seen through the language. However, when applying Shakespeare’s play in young ESL learners, the adaptation of the language, plot and themes has to be considered cautiously in order to cater for young learner’s needs at both literacy and cognition level. This essay is going to analyze how to adapt the script of Antony and Cleopatra from perspectives of theme, plot and character for S4-5 students. Challenges of script adaptation and relevant implication for L2 learners would be discussed later as well.
It is essential to know the historical context and of the play before adapting the play. According to Eileen (2010), pupils need to acquire background knowledge of the text they read to assist their understanding. Indeed, Shakespeare’s primary source of the play is according to Plutarch’s famous tale of Antony and Cleopatra (Facciponti, 2001). Cleopatra was the Queen who governed the whole Egypt around two thousand years ago. Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus shaped the rulership of the entire Roman Empire after Antony’s defeating of Brutus and Cssius. Later, the Roman Empire confronted a threat from Pompey while Octavius Caesar and Lepidus endeavored to take control of it. According to Facciponti (2001), Mark Antony is known as a brave soldier, powerful speaker as well as a ladies man. Meanwhile, Antony planed a social intrigue to provoke Queen Cleopatra. However, Cleopatra had her own plan to win over Antony. She set sail on the river Cydnus to meet Antony and seduced Antony. Being enchanted by Queen Cleopatra, Antony left his family and duties and departed for Alexandria. The conflict between Antony and Octavius Caesar became sharp due to Antony’s neglect on political duties. Antony’s marriage with Octavius Caesar’s sister Octavia could not heal the rift between Antony and Octavius Caesar but incensed Caesar because of Antony’s ignorance on Octavia. Therefore he declared a battle on both Antony and Cleopatra. At last, Antony was defeated by Octavius Caesar, and killed himself to die with honor. Cleopatra committed a suicide in the end. According to Bevington (2005), since the play focuses on the romance of the main characters, most of the political events or wars displayed are historically true.
Besides the historical background, Shakespeare’s language is another important element in script adaptation. As Eileen (2010) stated, “Shakespeare’s language has often been cited as the main obstacle to comprehending his work; whilst this may hold true to a large extent, in the teaching of Shakespeare in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom”(P.317). Obviously, language of the play has to be adapted based on needs the target learners. Similarly, In the drama production, the adaptation of the script has to consider needs and abilities of actors and audience.
The target actors and audiences of my adapted play Antony and Cleopatra are S.4-S.5 students approximately at the age of sixteen to eighteen years old. According to the CDC(2002), the learning...