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Antony And Cleopatra Essay

4258 words - 18 pages

The depiction of constant change and instability in Shakespeare`s Antony and CleopatraIntroductionConstant change and instability are themes that are found throughout the play and that are applied by Shakespeare on many different levels. The play differs from his other tragedies in many ways. `McBeth´ for instance -his previous play- has a more stringent, linear plot with logically increasing tension and a fixed Machiavellian motive of the protagonist. The motives of Antony are more complex and later in the play mostly subject to Cleopatra`s art of seduction. The importance of the topic becomes evident in the very beginning of the play.Philo`s monologue sums up the various changes that ...view middle of the document...

1.20ff). However Antony`s change becomes less surprising once Plutarch`s description of Antony being lured into `great follies and vain expenses upon women, in rioting and banketing´ (North, 255) is considered.The river NileThe ultimate image for fluctuation and transition is the river Nile. Shakespeare uses nature imagery each time his characters want to distance themselves from their social integrity. By using heightened language they give the whole situation a sublime, philosophical dimension. In Antony`s case his shout `Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch of the ranged empire fall!´ (1.1.34) shows his mental seperation from his origin and how much he despises the duties that come along with it. It also shows how a formerly rationally thinking politician gives way to emotional inclinations. Antony`s disintegration processes gradually to the point when `The crown o`th` earth doth melt´. (4.15.65)Another example for `things melting, dissolving or fading´ is Cleopatra`s reaction on hearing of Antony`s marriage: `Melt Egypt into Nile, and kindly creatures turn all to serpents!´. This passage shows that the river Nile is used as a symbol for birth and fertility as well as for transience and death. A further example is the `pretty worm of Nilus there that killd and pains not´ (5.2.242) Cleopatra uses for her suicide.Instability in Antony`s characterAntony`s character is symptomatic for the instability in Shakespeare`s play. He is torn between rationality and emotional motives, between Rome and Alexandria, between duty and leisure, between his military career and Cleopatra`s feminine attraction. Although he tends to enjoy the benefits of Egyptian lifestyle the message of his wife Fulvia`s death destroys the peace and alarms Antony. The circumstance that he is physically torn between the locations Rome and Alexandria isn`t as significant as his unsettled psychological identification. `I must from this enchanting queen break off.´(1.2.135) Most likely Shakespeare was inspired by Vergil`s `Odysseus and Circe´ whose love resembles more of a spell than of true affection.Nevertheless these views are subject to interpretation. Shakespeare uses Antony`s dilemma to make fun of him and soaks the dialogues with irony and sarcastic wit. Cleopatra:`He was disposed to mirth, but on the sudden a roman thought hath struck him´ (1.2.87) This passage splendidly sums up Cleopatra`s view on Antony`s situation: His roman origin is a threat to their love. However there is more to Antony`s decision to return to Rome than just the call of duty and friends in need. He starts to feel uncomfortable about his being with Cleopatra and even regrets his time together with her. Again, Shakespeare uses images of nature to express Antony`s feelings: `Oh, then we bring forth weeds when our quick minds lie still, and our ills told us is as our earing.´ (1.2.115) Antony feels uncomfortable because he finds himself in a...

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