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Discuss the presentation and dynamics of the triumvirate in Antony and Cleopatra

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Introduction

Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare Essay 2 Question: Discuss the presentation and dynamics of the triumvirate. In Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, the presentation and development of the relationships among the triumvirs, Caesar, Antony and Lepidus becomes a pivotal concern. As the play progresses, the dynamics of the triumvirate changes and becomes more complicated, providing the audience with the main political conflict that sometimes overshadows the romance of the title characters in the play. Shakespeare provides the audience with several different images of the triumvirate through different characters. The play's first mentioning of the triumvirate is, in essence, a masculine Roman perspective of a soldier. This is brought about through Philo and Demetrius in the opening act of the play with both the characters remaining anonymous to the audience. Therefore, they represent the 'common liar' among the Roman soldiers about the triumvirate. Philo's first introduction of the triumvirate to the audience comes in his opening speech, 'the triple pillar of the world'. The word 'pillar' which literally means a firm upright support for a superstructure or a chief supporter is indicative of the strength and force of the political union between Caesar, Antony and Lepidus. ...read more.

Middle

. Lepidus brings them together starting his speech to welcome them with 'Noble friends'. The word 'noble' alongside with the word 'friends' depicts the obscured fear in Lepidus that the first confrontation between the triumvirs the audience is witnessing could turn reprehensible. The phrase also suggests a certain degree of expectation in Lepidus that his partners shall behave nobly, as expected in a meeting between friends. Lepidus, playing the role of an intermediary among the triumvirs gives his partners a subtle reminder to 'let not a leaner action rend us'. He once again addresses Antony and Caesar as 'noble partners' with the word 'noble' suggesting decency in behaviour and words and 'partners' suggesting equality and parity among the both. As Lepidus's role becomes apparent to the audience, we acknowledge that the real antagonism and rivalry is between Caesar and Antony and the other characters that appear on stage are there only to assist in establishing the scale of that enmity. Caesar and Antony appears to be natural enemies with nothing being too small to cause a power struggle. Caesar and Antony's opening lines with each other are very formal with Caesar welcoming Antony to Rome, 'Welcome to Rome' and Antony thanking him in return. ...read more.

Conclusion

In her continuous taunts towards Antony in Act I Scene I about his duties, Cleopatra only mentions Caesar. In fact she shows consciousness that Caesar is the more dominant among the three members when she says, 'If the scarce-bearded Caesar have not sent his powerful mandate to you, 'Do this, or this; take in that kingdom and enfranchise that; Perform't, or else we damn thee,' to Antony. She even calls Antony 'Caesar's homager' and Antony's reaction to that confesses the truth of Cleopatra's barb, that Antony must obey Caesar's mandate. Later in Act I Scene V, Cleopatra's reference to Antony as the 'demi-Atlas of this earth' reflects of acknowledgement of Caesar as the ruler of the other half of the Roman known world and completely disregards Lepidus, who's also a member of the second triumvirate. Caesar and Antony are of differing temperaments and reconciliation between them can be expected to be short-lived. Caesar is a senator with great sense of clarity and Roman sense of duty, Antony is a reputable Roman general but Lepidus is neither. Lepidus's role as a peacemaker serves as an internal force to bind the triumvirate together. The strength of the triumvirate can only be seen when all three agree with their partners. Through different characters in the play, Shakespeare presents the dynamics of the triumvirate, creating different perspectives on its strength and weaknesses. ...read more.

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