Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shakespeare’s Recognition: Dragons, The Symbol of Ambivalence

Through the research that I have been doing on dragons in the Renaissance I have found an interesting discovery of how those living during the time period viewed this mythical beast. The dragon was viewed as a symbol of ambivalence due to its ever changing appearance and its ability to carry both positive and negative connotations.

The physical appearance and capabilities of dragons has always been evolving. At times, during the Renaissance, the dragon was sometimes a fire breathing, flying, two-legged monster, and at other times it’s a four legged creature with the ability to become a sea monster. The fact that the dragon’s image is always changing helps to emphasize this creatures ambivalence, yet this feeling is clearly portrayed through its changing overall perception. Presently the most common view of Dragons is in a negative light. We maintain an idea of the dragon being a fearful being, with strange, supernatural abilities, take for instance Godzilla. However, while this same feeling existed during the Renaissance, there was also present a feeling of reverence towards this powerful beast.

This idea of the Dragon’s ambivalence is reflected through William Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare was a living and involved member of society during the Renaissance, so he understood the idea of a dragon being a changing figure of appearance and nature so it is not surprising to see him make a reference to this fact in his Anthony and Cleopatra. In the fourth act, in the thirteenth scene Mark Antony comments -
“Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish”.
This reference makes it obvious that this feeling of irresolution was a common belief during the time period.

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