My essay considers the erotics of bounded place and of limitless space in Antony and Cleopatra. I argue that the act of placing one’s lover—both metaphorical and physical, fantasized and real—is the primary source of erotic desire and pleasure in Shakespeare’s play. The erotics of bounded place often emerge as a response to a profound anxiety about displacement, the threat of being cast out into a void of infinite space. The first half of my essay builds on Edward Casey’s philosophical history of both place and space to consider the erotic implications of these two scenes for Shakespeare's characters. The images of bounded place in Antony and Cleopatra get their erotic charge from the language of sexual bondage, specifically from the formal and temporal features of masochism. When Antony and Cleopatra emplace one another or become each other’s place, they make bridles of each other’s embraces. Although the void of death poses the greatest threat to localized place, I argue in the second half of my paper that Antony and Cleopatra eroticize the void by imposing the sturdy boundaries of place onto vacant space. Binding the void allows the lovers to present this vacancy to one another, enabling pleasurable experiences of self-loss and self-forgetting. It is, finally, at Cleopatra’s monument in Act 5 that the erotic dynamics of place and endless space converge, creating for the lovers a “new heaven, new earth” within its walls.
"Binding the Void: The Erotics of Place in Antony and Cleopatra,"
Criticism: Vol. 58
, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol58/iss2/6