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Contrast and how it is used to heighten differences in Antony and Cleopatra.

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Introduction

Contrast and how it is used to heighten differences in Antony and Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra is a stage play written by William Shakespeare in the 17th Century. The plot of Antony and Cleopatra is centred round the struggle between East and West, which is not only between two geographically distinct empires but also between two diametrically opposed views. Shakespeare used all his literary tools to transform this historic story to a comedic tragedy. Shakespeare, when writing the opening scene, was very aware that he had to capture the audience's attention and interest. He opens with a Roman point of view "Nay, but this dotage of our general's overflows the measure," although the play is set in Alexandria, Egypt. This is the first contrast used to capture the audience's attention because they will be curious to why a roman soldier would be in Egypt. The audience is then shown throughout the play the opposition between the conquering West, standing for moral and political virtue, and the conquering East representing luxury and decadence. ...read more.

Middle

However in his portrait of Cleopatra, Shakespeare stresses the East's ability to attract and does not underestimate it's skill and shows it to be more complex than the Romans believe. While gossiping about Cleopatra in Egypt Enobarbus describes her as follows, 'For her own person, it beggared all description. She did lie in her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue, O'erpicturing that Venus where we see the fancy outwork nature'.(II,ii,Ls202) This speech given by Enobarbus is a contrast in itself. It is the first real description of Cleopatra that is given to the audience and it is presented by a Roman soldier. Enobarbus, when speaking at other times, is coarse and common and talks in a language that the audience of that time would find easy to understand. At this point though, he is allowed to be poetic and graceful in his use of language, when describing Cleopatra's arrival onto the scene, 'The barge she sat in, like burnished throne burned on the water.'(II,ii,L196) ...read more.

Conclusion

when she discovers the truth. Antony is at first portrayed as a man who has betrayed his empire for love. He is described as 'a strumpet's fool' by one of his own soldiers but this is contrasted with Cleopatra's admiring descriptions of him as 'the demi-Atlas of the earth' (I.5.l23) and as a giant of a man in that 'his legs bestride the ocean' (v.2.l82). Antony's prowess as a military man and influence is confirmed by Caesar himself when he states that any hardship that Antony faced he 'borne it so like a soldier'. Shakespeare's dramatic strategy in Antony and Cleopatra was concerned with creating images of Egypt that his Elizabethan audience could identify with: feasting, wealth, pyramids, serpents, insects and above all, the mysterious fertile Nile. In conclusion this drama is best viewed by an audience where the contrasts can also be seen. The vertical sense and physical rigidity manifested in the Roman's military uniform and their firm, solid, upright positions contrast with the graceful ease of the mobile, colourful and playful Egyptians who would fill the stage with the movement of fans and music. ...read more.

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