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AS and A Level: Antony and Cleopatra
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Often essay questions ask for an exploration of the scenes, speeches or extracts from the play. These essays require close attention to detail and textual analysis including
- 1 How characters are established and developed through the language they use.
- 2 Changing from verse to prose and its effect.
- 3 Poetic and dramatic effects of language choice including individual words and use of simile and metaphor.
- 4 Placing of the caesura and its effects.
- 5 How the extract relates to the themes of the play as a whole.
Developing a personal response to 'Antony and Cleopatra' - some things to think about when planning your essays
- 1 Who do I find the most admirable/puzzling/ unlikeable/irritating character?
- 2 What is Cleopatra’s best quality, and what is her worst?
- 3 Which speech or speeches do I find most powerful and why?
- 4 Which scenes or characters are amusing, and why are there comic scenes in a tragedy?
- 5 Are any of the minor characters interesting and what do they contribute to the play?
Points to remember when writing about the contrasting and conflicting 'worlds' of Egypt and Rome
- 1 Caesar is not the only representative of Rome. Consider also Pompey, Lepidus, Octavia and a range of soldiers and messengers.
- 2 Similarly Cleopatra is not the only representative of Egypt.
- 3 Consider the role of Enobarbus. Is he the only character who successfully spans both worlds?
- 4 Include analysis of how language and verse forms help to create the worlds of Egypt and Rome.
- 5 Finally a common error to avoid when writing about Rome and Egypt – It was Julius Caesar who was Cleopatra’s former lover, not the Caesar of the play, who is Octavius Caesar.
- Marked by Teachers essays 5
- Peer Reviewed essays 3
'Cleopatra is often interpreted as the designing woman who brings down a worthy soldier and ruler, but this view is simplistic.' How do you, in the 21st century, respond to Shakespeare's dramatic presentation of Cleopatra?5 star(s)
This question is more than trivial to her, however she might behave; she needs his reassurance. She is desperate to cling on to Antony's love, incredibly sensitive when it is threatened. Her first reaction to his suggestion of returning to Rome is to cry 'never was there queen so mightily betrayed!' She assumes that he has chosen to abandon her for Fulvia. Even on learning that Fulvia is dead, she sees the worst in Anthony. He shows no visible grief, so she demands 'Where be the sacred vials thou shouldst fill with sorrowful water?' In his lack of tears she sees herself slighted, deducing that this is how her death 'shall be received'.
- Word count: 1718
Caesar: Welcome to Rome. Antony: Thank you. Caesar: Sit. Antony: Sit, sir. Caesar: Nay then. [Caesar sits, then Antony] This is comic moment from Shakespeare, but it does also outline the ongoing power struggle within the triumvirate. The scene can be looked at from two angles: it could be argued that, as it is Antony who wins this small exchange, the event aims to highlight the strength he possesses at the height of his career in order to provide a contrast for his lack of authority at the closing stages of the play; on the other hand it could also perhaps be seen as
- Word count: 2067
This is a type of sleeping drug. She is effectively saying that she can't bear to be parted from her lover so she might as well sleep the time away. This is in contrast to her behaviour towards him when he returns to her. It as if when he's around her he can never please her or at least she will never show her pleasure with him. She is hesitant as if she doesn't want him to see her true love for him. This makes me think that because of her past with men, which never seems to work out she may realise that he is the 'one' for her but she is afraid that she may lose him.
- Word count: 1810
Read the following extract from Act 1 scene 2. In what ways does this passage show the conflict of Rome and Egypt?3 star(s)
It begins with the soothsayer telling the fortune of Charmian and Iras however, the two joke about the predictions and it is in this part that Shakespeare instils the passage full of sexual innuendo between the women to show the nature of the Egyptian women. Shakespeare's famous wit with wordplay is seen clearly as Charmian hints at the sexual meaning behind the word 'inch' while Iras clearly confirms both their intentions with the statement that were she to have an extra inch it would 'Not [go] in my husband's nose'.
- Word count: 831
Compare and contest the differing perspectives of Anthony and Cleopatra in act one.In your opinion which one of the characters is portrayed in a more positive light?3 star(s)
Anthony and Cleopatra is sometimes classified as a tragedy, however, because of it's uniqueness it is difficult to categorize. Many place it with the Roman plays, Julius Caesar and Cariallunis, all three use Plucharch's view of the noble Grecians and Romans as their primary source and all three have concerns steeped in historical and political queries. Shakespeare may also have taken inspiration from Robert Games tragedy 'Marc Antoine', Shakespeare with the famous classical treatment of the clash between love and Roman duty in his mind.
- Word count: 1644
'Ruthless leader....loving brother....boring Puritan....gracious victor.' Explore the way in which Shakespeare presents the character of Octavius Caesar in 'Antony
He wants to do this because he feels that 'her life in Rome would be eternal in our triumph.' This shows the reader how Caesar has strong emotional outcries, which contrasts his initial characteristics. The first impressions the audience gains of Caesar show him to be a complete contrast to what the audiences have previously observed about Antony, one of the other leaders in the Triumvirate. Caesar is very strong-minded about leadership, and prioritises rules and regulations over love and fun.
- Word count: 2047
Antony does realise the importance of his duties in Rome but these realisations do not come very often, in Scene 2 Antony is reminded of his Roman duties when told that Fulvia is dead and that Pompey is a threat to Rome. Cleopatra is the Queen of Egypt and a Jacobean audience would have related to her in several ways. Cleopatra in the play is unmarried and this could help the Jacobean audience to communicate with as their past monarch Queen Elizabeth I was an unmarried queen.
- Word count: 686
(I.ii.1-14) Philo means that, since being in Egypt with Cleopatra (the "tawny front" and "strumpet") Antony's solider persona has become weakened, and he now lives to be a plaything for Cleopatra. The "triple pillar of the world" means that he is a member of the ruling triumvirate, and this insinuates that Antony is not doing his job properly, or does not care about Rome. This is confirmed a few lines later, twice by Antony himself: Messenger: News, my good lord, from Rome Antony: Grates me! The sum. (I.1.18-19) In the above quote, Antony dismisses the messenger, who is bringing news from Rome, probably meaning Lepidus, Caesar, his wife Fulvia, or another important person.
- Word count: 981
Caesar: Let's grant that it is not Amiss to tumble on the bed of Ptolemy, [To] keep the turn of tippling with a slave ... and stand the buffet With knaves that smells of sweat. (I.iv.10b-11, 16b-17, 19, 20b-21a) Caesar again complaints that both Antony and Cleopatra are committing adultery, and then says that Antony has been drinking too much, and fighting with "knaves," which means that he is not focusing on running the Empire, as he should be, and also that it gives a bad impression of the triumvirate and Caesar especially - something that Caesar himself is very worried about, as is seen later.
- Word count: 1233
Antony's declaration of 'my sword, made weak by my affection' reveals that Cleopatra has dominated over him. The sword is a symbol of strength which shows us that when Antony is with Cleopatra he loses his military might. Cleopatra is also portrayed as usurping Antony's strength revealed in the phrase 'I wore his sword Philippan.' She is astute and this allows her to influence Antony's ideas so that they will be suitable for her own needs and aspirations, clearly portrayed when Antony calls her a 'wrangling queen.' Cleopatra is the dominant figure in the relationship and because of this Antony must get 'her leave to part.'
- Word count: 1989
The conviction with which Philo speaks brings the political and war faring nature of the Romans to the forefront and it becomes clear that the world Antony used to occupy is greatly at odds with the world he now inhabits with Cleopatra who is derogatorily described as having a "tawny front" (highlighting the Romans' latent racial prejudices) and whose "gipsy's lust" has reduced Antony to a "strumpet's fool". Philo never once uses positive words or language to describe the love between Antony and his queen; he constantly uses words that undermine the actual power she has a queen.
- Word count: 1874
'to lend me arms and aid when I required them, the which you both denied' this shows how powerful Antony has become when the Emperor of Rome asks him for his help. He and Cleopatra are lovers, but it would seem that there are very few who approve of this arrangement as is made clear when Philo is speaking and says "The triple pillar in the world transformed into a strumpet's fool." (pg 5 line 12-3), this shows very low regard for both Antony and Cleopatra and there is no way Philo should be speaking of them in this way as he is of a much lower rank.
- Word count: 1532
Enobarbus swells with importance as he begins his account, and the line "I will tell you" is both a reminder of his own participation in the events, and a way of heightening expectation. The potent imagery of his speeches portrays Cleopatra as a rival to the goddess Venus, an apt role model for a woman who wields her sexuality as a weapon in her fight for power and status. Gold is the prevalent colour of the costumes and decoration of the procession, "a burnish'd throne", which is a symbol of great wealth and majesty.
- Word count: 953
Also, it is clear that Enobarbus disapproves of Antony's priorities, as he speaks with conviction against it; he uses a model verb to voice his opinion; 'should not then'. This is indicative of just how strongly Enobarbus feels about Antony's pursuit of Cleopatra. The way that Enobarbus brings up the idea that affection 'nicked his [Antony's] captainship' presents Antony as a character who is far from level-headed; to lose 'captainship' at such a vital time would have been unthinkable in Roman times, with honour and valour being key traits; it was seen as a sign of nobility for one, rather than retreat or be captured, to commit suicide, fall on his sword.
- Word count: 1709
how much.' Her attempt to make Antony confirm his love for her shows either that she feels insecure about their relationship, or, what is more likely given what we are told by Philo before the couple's entrance, that she is manipulating Antony, trying to make him forget his duties in Rome. This, an obvious display of Cleopatra's attention to publicly upholding her status, emphasizes the effect of her ostentatious entrance, which, as written in the stage directions, includes a 'flourish' of sorts, and a sizeable entourage of 'her ladies' (Iras and Charmian), 'the train' and 'eunuchs fanning her.'
- Word count: 2741
The scene is almost a microcosm of the entire play; it miniaturises fundamental themes, and sets the atmosphere for the rest of the play. It also immediately gives the reader a sense of the characters personalities and future plots. This is firstly a result of the heavily laden evocative language. At the beginning of the scene being analysed, Cleopatra's character is being portrayed as manipulative, confrontational and argumentative. From her exaggerated language, 'Nay, pray you seek no colour for your going, but bid farewell and go', the reader can depict that she is endlessly in a sly attempt to win Antony's affections.
- Word count: 1346
How does Shakespeare use his contrast between Rome and Egypt to present the themes in Antony and Cleopatra ?
This could be the reason that the three greatest Romans, Antony Caesar and Pompey have all had sexual experience with the queen of Egypt. He uses the contrast in difference between the two countries very well and this makes the main themes in the production stand out. In Egypt, women talk openly about explicit sexuality, they express their sexual feelings, joke about sexual matters, and establish a close female community, sexuality in Egypt is closely linked to play and to feasting.
- Word count: 1169
Throughout the play, Shakespeare establishes a love-hate relationship between Antony and Cleopatra. In doing so, there are times when the lovers are characterized as stark opposites of each other as well as instances where these characterizations are reversed. The Romans, represented by Caesar, define Antony as a strong, rational Roman general who has unwillingly been seduced by a vile Egyptian temptress. However, throughout the play, Antony struggles to live up to this reputation. As audience members, we, like the Romans, begin the play thinking of Antony as a victorious Roman general, not as Cleopatra's lover.
- Word count: 2256
Her dominance is presented in another way also later on when she deliberately belittles Antony by playing on his lack of masculinity and his subservience to the "scarce-bearded Caesar"," is Caesar's homager", and by saying he takes orders from him: "Do this or this..." By using such provocative language, and by the use of Antony's feeble replay, it serves to highlight the dominance of Cleopatra and weakness of Antony. Cleopatra's aggressive nature is hinted when a messenger is frightened to announce a message to Antony.
- Word count: 1599
Antony is a General, before meeting Cleopatra he was seen has a respectful and honourable man. Since meeting Cleopatra he has forgotten about how important he is to the rest of his men. Antony has abandoned them for his true love Cleopatra and as suffered the consequences as now they no longer dote him. He has been put under Cleopatra's powerful spell. His heart is now set on a woman rather than war. He used to have a high reputation but now his own men have turned their backs on him. Antony and Cleopatra enter together.
- Word count: 872
queen break off", showing that while he never shows it to the other characters, he does feel a need to fulfil his duty in Rome. Both Antony and Cleopatra's relationship with other characters in Act 1 give an insight into their personalities and lives. Cleopatra will go from being nice to her servants and eunuchs to being cruel to them in an extremely quick transition. Whereas Antony will not tend to engage in conversation with any of the Egyptian servants, but will however acknowledge Enobarbus (a Roman)
- Word count: 1099
Being one of the three rulers of Rome bestows upon Antony a very unique task with grave global implications and yet, when he is in Egypt, Antony unashamedly disregards his greater commitment to this position. He heedlessly proclaims during one of his trips to Alexandria to "let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch / of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space" (1.1.38-39). Though it is his role as ruler that is his true station, he elevates his role as Cleopatra's lover above it and declares Egypt, a world of pleasure and passivity that contrast immeasurably with the hardships and strict order of Rome, to be his rightful home.
- Word count: 1551
From looking at what Philo is saying it think it is obvious how Antony has changed from being a respected member of the triumvirate into Cleopatra's fool. Philo has no respect for Cleopatra and sees her as a prostitute; I also think he feels that Cleopatra is using Antony for her own needs, "To cool a gypsy's lust." From Philo's opening speech I feel you can see how Antony has lost the respect of the Romans. As Antony is in Egypt he has lost his respect and influence in Rome and is, therefore, losing his power as Antony stays in
- Word count: 2227
The inferior characters however play more key roles in the play than first appears. The servants are known to talk in prose; it is here used to distinguish the insubordination of the servants such as Charmian and Eunobarbas. In Act 1 Scene 2 the maid servant Charmian: Good now, some excellent fortune! Let me be married to three kings in a forenoon, and widow them all: let me have a child at fifty, to whom Herod of Jewry may do homage: find me to marry me with Octavius Caesar, and companion me with my mistress.
- Word count: 674
Coming from Caesar, one of Antony's triumvirate counterparts, this is a strong statement, highlighting the problems Antony has caused. I do believe that there is much more depth to Antony's self in Egypt, however it seems at essence he is a different man. The theme of Antony being a 'fallen hero' almost, is a reoccurring one, and interestingly happens only with the involvement of the Romans. The Egyptians never regard his presence in Egypt as "dotage" or giving "a kingdom for a mirth". We first become aware of Antony's 'fall from grace' in the very opening of the play.
- Word count: 1687