William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra
Throughout the play, Antony grapples with the conflict between his
love for Cleopatra and his duties to the Roman Empire. In his opening
lines to Demetrius, Philo complains that Antony has abandoned the
military endeavours on which his reputation is based for Cleopatra's
sake. His criticism of Antony's "dotage," or stupidity, introduces a
tension between reason and emotion that runs throughout the play.
Antony and Cleopatra's first exchange heightens this tension, as they
argue whether their love can be put into words and understood or
whether it exceeds such faculties and boundaries of reason.
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making such fond remarks of Antony would almost shock the audience
because it is so unexpected from him. Both Lepidus and Caesar are
saying that Antony is being dishonourable to himself and others by not
living up to the reputation he has built for himself.
Evidence to suggest that Cleopatra has a hold of Antony is in Act 3
sc. 7 when Antony decides to fight by sea in full knowledge that his
army is so much weaker than Caesar's. Shakespeare puts across to the
audience that this decision is made whilst he is in a trance of
Cleopatra's spell and it is almost as though she encourages him: "I
have sixty sails, Caesar none better," which is slightly ironic
because despite that fact that she appears to have great ships, at the
time of war they retreat. Canidius shows his worries and his
disapproval of Antony's decision by saying, "So our leader's led, and
we are women's men," and later on Scarus says, "We have kissed away
Kingdoms and provinces." All of Antony's loyal subjects feel that
Cleopatra has a bad influence on his Romanity and honourable
reputation. They go on to later say that "Antonyâ€¦like a doting
mallardâ€¦flies after her" because of his loyalty to the one he loves.
The fact that Antony can change from a man deep in self pity,
"despair" and regret from following Cleopatra from the battle, to a
man who has forgiven from one kiss, shows the overpowering enchanted
hold Cleopatra has on him. Cleopatra in defence of her actions, tries
to sway Antony by saying, "I little thought you would have followed,"
when she knew very well how much Antony loves her, and that he would
do whatever she did. "Give me a kiss. Even this repays me," shows his
weakness to her.
The start of Antony's decline comes in Act 3 sc. 13 when he says to
Cleopatra, "Alack, our terrene moon is now eclipsed and it portends
alone the fall of Antony," and he says this in a very melancholy way.
His language is foreshadowing what is to come because, not to his
knowledge at this time, he does die first out of the two. The word
"Cold" appears several times in this scene to reiterate the fact that
he is so miserable and unhappy. In the whole of Act 4, Antony seems to
be more determined than he has been throughout the play, and this
determination to win what he sees as his last battle, means that he
also becomes more emotive in what he says to his "friends," for
example, for the first time in the whole play, Antony uses Enobarbus'
first name, Domitius suggesting a growing intimacy between them which
is highly ironic seeing as Enobarbus is about to leave him.
His language becomes very dignified:...