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An exploration of how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra throughout the play.

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Introduction

An exploration of how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra throughout the play. As the title suggests Antony and Cleopatra are the two main characters of the play and have between them a relationship forged through love and torn apart through death. As expected of a play written by Shakespeare their relationship is not a simple one but one shrouded in lies, deceit, scandal and mystery. Echoing other Shakespearean relationships such as "Romeo and Juliet" Antony and Cleopatra are destined to be together through either life or death. From the very start of the play the audience is made aware of the main factor, capable of tearing Antony and Cleopatra apart, Antony's duty to Rome. In the opening scene of the play Antony receives a message from Octavius and is mocked by Cleopatra, who taunts Antony by imitating Octavius and saying "Do this or this, take in that kingdom". She makes Antony feel lesser than Octavius, whom she describes as "scarce bearded" implying that he is taking orders from a young boy. This shows the reader, from the very start of the play how manipulative Cleopatra can be, especially if she feels threatened and wants to get her own way. Cleopatra is threatened by Antony's link with Rome as she feels it has the potential to pull them apart, and she is right. Antony does not wish to give up anything, he is pulled by a life in Rome which brings with it order and duty, but also power, and Egypt, that represents pleasure and love for Antony. ...read more.

Middle

This scene reassures the audience that although Antony is in Rome his affections still lie with Cleopatra and Egypt. He tells Cleopatra that "The strong necessity of time / Commands our services a while but my full heart / Remains in use with you", letting Cleopatra know that his love for her will always be for her. After reassuring Cleopatra of his love for her it is surprising news for Cleopatra that Antony is to be married to Octavia. Octavia is used as a pawn in the battle for power. She is made into a wife, but Cleopatra is not. She may become Antony's "mistress" in the process, but at least as an independent monarch she can claim power over her own life. Cleopatra is however enraged by the news of the marriage and turns her fury against the messenger who brings the news to her. She loves Antony and hearing this news after all he has promised her is too much for her. Cleopatra is overcome by her feelings and as well as attacking a messenger she also threatens and harasses a servant as a representation of what she would do to Antony. When she first hears the news she wishes "the most infectious pestilence" upon the messenger, and proceeds to strike him to the ground. "Horrible villain, I'll spurn thine eyes", "I'll unhair thy head" and "thou shalt be whipped with wire" are three examples of the threats she makes to the messenger. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even when Antony is made aware that Cleopatra is still alive, whilst he is dying, all he wants is to be with her, ""Bear me good friends, where Cleopatra bides; 'Tis the last service that I shall command you". Shakespeare uses this quote to show that no matter what, in life or in death all Antony desires is to be with Cleopatra. Cleopatra's death is heavily influenced by the death of Antony. Her desire to join him in the afterlife and be with him is overwhelming and forces her to take her own life. Even the threat made by Caesar to "kill her own children if she takes her life" cannot influence her decision. The last thing Cleopatra calls for before she dies is Antony. "Methinks I hear Antony call. I see him rouse himself, to praise my noble act". This comment made by Cleopatra shows the heavy influence that Antony's death has on her decision to commit suicide. During such a tragic moment all she can think about is joining him. "Husband I come, now to that name my courage prove my title". Cleopatra only refers to Antony as her husband once during the whole play and it is this comment, that makes the audience aware of the true love she has for Antony and how proud she is that he is her "husband". In conclusion it is clearly evident that Shakespeare presents Antony and Cleopatra as two powerful figures that although pulled apart from their duties, are destined to be together whether it be in life, or in death. Their true love for each other provides a strong bond that although weakened by Antonys marriage to Octavia, cannot be broken. ...read more.

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