Author ORCID Identifier




Faculty Sponsor

John Michael Kuhn


This article works to unpack the recurrences of air-related language utilized in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Throughout this play, the notions of breath, wind, air, and vapor are consistently referenced, demonstrating the way in which atmospheric intangibility was a key point of exploration for contemporary scientists and philosophers. Through this analysis, it is clear that Shakespeare employs breath in three ways: the breath of (public) life, a lack of breath, and, most importantly, breath as a symbol of power and autonomy, which at times overlaps with the breath of life in ways that demonstrate contemporary conceptualizations of living beings. The relation of breath and power is shown to exist in other seventeenth-century texts, which often thought about breath and power in relation to God, spirits, and nature. Ultimately, Shakespeare treats air as transformative, wind as a whimsical means of transportation, and vapor as contagious. These ideas coincide with seventeenth-century understandings of these meteorological concepts found in complex scientific theories, natural philosophy ideas, and cultural constructions accepted by the general public.