• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Antony and Cleopatra - How does Shakespeare create this sense of distance and power in the play?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

"Antony and Cleopatra work so powerfully through distance. Vast geographical distances had opened up for the English imagination a sense of power over space to audiences of both 1607 and now." How does Shakespeare create this sense of distance and power in the play? Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra is a clash of cultural values in the union of a fine Roman general and a sultry Egyptian queen. Whilst it purports to being a tragic love story, the play traverses the ancient world in an important survey of a twelve-year history that determines the fate of two empires - a history that seals the demise of Roman republicanism, and decisively shifts the balance of Mediterranean power from East to West. Written ten years before Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra portrays actual events and persons from Roman history, but also embodies the love story of the two title characters. For the historical background, plot and intimate details of the affair between Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare drew upon the work of the ancient Roman historian Plutarch. However, Shakespeare transformed the play into his own personal masterpiece by portraying the power over distance that the relationship of the two protagonists exerts, and this sense of power over vast geographical space is a fundamental aspect of the play. Critic Harley Granville-Barker comments, 'Roman and Egyptian are set against each other, and this opposition braces the whole body of the play.' ...read more.

Middle

However, the nautical connotations could also be taken to reiterate the vast distances throughout the play, 'makes the sea serve them, which they ear and wound with keels of every kind. Many hot inroads they make in Italy; the borders maritime.' Rome and Egypt, the two conflicting cultures represented by Caesar and Cleopatra, are separated by sea, and this is the location of Antony's final failures. The changes in place are associated in the verbal texture of the play with the vacillating tide. A simile is also present likening the gentlewomen of Cleopatra to Nereides, sea nymphs, daughters of the sea god Nereus. The Jacobean era was a time of voyage discovery and many long distances were travelled by sea. In his use of nautical imagery, Shakespeare has clearly attempted to illustrate to audiences of 1607 the vast geographical scale of the play. Although Antony and Cleopatra details the conflict between Rome and Egypt, providing audiences with an idea of Elizabethan perceptions of the difference between Western and Eastern cultures, there is no definitive conclusion as to which side ultimately triumphs. Critic Robin Sowerby presents the argument that, 'their deaths might be said to celebrate a transcendent love affair that makes Caesar's success at the end seem something rather paltry.' This is an interesting point to consider, for although Egypt falls and becomes a Roman province, Shakespeare clearly does not align the play's sympathies with the West. ...read more.

Conclusion

This also emphasises the simile likening Cleopatra to Venus, which is repeated several times throughout the play. Even in the first scene, Antony's exalted language when he talks of 'new heaven, new earth' and speaks of, 'the nobleness of life' suggests something more than a sordid affair of lust. Regardless of whether a conclusion is drawn as to whether Antony and Cleopatra's relationship is based upon love or lust, the two protagonists still ultimately triumph over the vast geographical distances and the conflict between their two cultures by acknowledging that death is their escape and their only chance of remaining a couple. Whilst Antony and Cleopatra focuses upon an incendiary love affair, it is also a play based upon a double vision of the world. The problematic relationship between the two protagonists introduces a conflict between two opposing cultures, the Roman and the Egyptian. As critic Joyce Carole Oates suggests, ' it is simply between two views of the world, the Roman and the Egyptian, the old Machiavellianism of those who deal in lieutenantry ant the unfixed, pulsating, undignified voluptuousness of those to whom passion has become a world.' Despite the differences between the worlds of the protagonists, they discover a mutual and transcendental union that amply compensates for the sacrifices of land ownership they must make, yet their love marks a different form of power that challenges even the political strength of Rome. Rebecca Jordan 12.5 Wycombe High School 52433 2004 English Literature ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Antony and Cleopatra section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Antony and Cleopatra essays

  1. Essentially Antony and Cleopatra is a story of power politics; its theme is not ...

    However, later in the play, Caesar imprisons Lepidus and has him killed. Caesar manufactures charges against Lepidus, whom he tells Agrippa and Maecenas has 'grown too cruel', to justify his actions. However, primarily, the audience sees Caesar as an attractive character that embodies the values of empire and even as an attractive character.

  2. "A better title for this play would be 'Cleopatra and Antony' because Cleopatra is ...

    for a woman to have such power over a man was unheard of, public humiliation was disgraceful. Immediately after Philo has described Antony as "the bellows and the fan to cool a gypsy's lust", Antony and Cleopatra arrive with "eunuchs fanning her".

  1. Explore how Shakespeare develops the themes of duty

    the love between Antony and Cleopatra is a disapproving look through the eyes of a Roman soldier. In the microcosm of the first scene we see the negative Roman views of Cleopatra juxtaposed with Antony's insurmountable ("then must though needs find out new heaven, new earth.")

  2. Examine the Strengths and Weaknesses of Antony and Cleopatra's relationship and the significance love ...

    "O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony!"(I.5.21)4 from this Cleopatra is showing the magnitude and importance of Antony's splendour. Cleopatra describes here that the horse should be flattered to be supporting such a wonderful man, although this is slightly humorous, as the horse would not feel any honour,

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

    By using the word "fetters" Shakespeare is also showing the audience how Antony feels chained and trapped. When the rising political power of Pompey demands it, Antony finally decides he has to return to Rome. In scene three of the first act, Antony approaches Cleopatra and tells her of the news of his departure.

  2. How does Shakespeare explore the relationship between man and woman in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’? ...

    Once a great and powerful leader, he is now easily persuaded by Cleopatra into a life of luxury and pleasure. His friends feel he is wasted on this gipsy, this slut. They make opinionated remarks about Cleopatra- calling her a 'strumpet' and describing her as a 'tawny front' They cannot

  1. Analysis of scene one - Antony and Cleopatra

    Proclaiming she is faint several times, she goes through emotional changes at a dizzying speed: first she rails against Antony, saying she should never have trusted a man who was so faithless to his wife; then she hears news of Fulvia's death and says that as Antony seems unmoved by

  2. Antony was a strong leader in Rome; he met Cleopatra after his friend Julius ...

    She encourages him to go back to Rome which forces Antony to stay in Rome because he knows if he leaves this will make her more paranoid and insecure. He now has to convince Cleoptra that he loves her and she refuses to believe him as he married Fulvia who

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work