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"Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of both Antony and Cleopatra in Act 1"

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Introduction

"Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of both Antony and Cleopatra in Act 1" Shakespeare's presentation of both Antony and Cleopatra in Act 1 can be analysed in many ways as they are both introduced in Act 1 with in-depth descriptions and images of both of them throughout, whether it be by eachother or opinions on them voiced by other characters. Straight from the beginning of the play, in Act 1 scene 1, Antony and Cleopatra argue over whether their love for one another for one another can be measured: CLEOPATRA: If it be love indeed, tell me how much. ANTONY: There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned. CLEOPATRA: I'll set a bourn how far to be beloved. ANTONY: Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth. This exchange sets the tone for the up coming talks on love and their attitudes to eachother and their relationship. Cleopatra expresses the expectation that love should be declared grandly. She is looking for a particular sense of comfort and being loved by asking Antony and wanting to hear of how much he loves her. It seems as though Cleopatra and Antony's relationship seems to be very much in the public eye due to both of them holding such high positions in the two most powerful empires of the world. ...read more.

Middle

Thus, Antony finds himself torn between the Rome of his duty and the Alexandria of his pleasure. This conflict is very much in line with conflicts of his reason and emotion, his sense of duty and his desire, his obligations to the state and his private needs. Overall from Act 1 the impression that Antony casts is very much different to what the Shakespearian audience would be accustomed to as they will have been familiar with Antony as a loyal, honorable and brave man in the previous shakespeare play, Julius Ceasar. However with quotes such as above and the disrespect and unwillingness Antony gives of hearing the Messenger's message would have been a very new occurrence to the audience and would seem as though this was not 'the' Antony that they had heard legends about. Not only is it Antony who seems to be split in half, we also see Cleopatra during Act 1 in many different ways consequently illustrating the varying understandings of her as an indulgent woman who enjoys to relax and live a life of fun but also as a noble ruler. A highly attractive woman who once seduced Julius Caesar, Cleopatra delights in the thought that she has caught Antony like a fish and seems to be proud that she can have such powerful men as she ...read more.

Conclusion

It is in Act 1 scene 4 where this is best seen, Caesar meets with Lepidus to discuss the threat that Pompey poses to the empire. Here, he lays into Antony for staying in Egypt, where he "Pawn their experience to the present pleasure" at the expense of his duty to the state. This speech plays a significant role in defining the two cultures (Rome and Egypt) and the comparision of Romes sesibility and hard working ethics against Cleopatra's lavish Egypt. This speech also dismisses Antony's passion for Cleopatra as irresponsibility of childish levels, he again reinstates the Roman ethic of duty over pleasure. In general, it is fair to say that in Act 1 Shakespeare focuses on the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra which later becomes the catalyst for the unravellment of the conflicts between the two empires, the triumvirate and more specifically Ceasar and Antony and the conflict between Antonys desires and his duties. In Shakespeare's presentation of both characters, it is apparent that all is not as the audience expects and that both have particular attributes, beliefs and skills which make them into a very much more mysterious and capable of great destruction on others as with one another. ...read more.

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