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

Examine the contrast between Cleopatra and Octavia. How do they embody different aspects of womanhood and how is this opposition useful in developing the themes and actions of the play?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Examine the contrast between Cleopatra and Octavia. How do they embody different aspects of womanhood and how is this opposition useful in developing the themes and actions of the play? How might the distinction be given different emphases in performance? Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare's most dramatic plays; however it has not been staged nearly as many as plays such as Hamlet or Macbeth because it is such a hard play to produce due to its enormous variety of content. However the mere strength of the characters within the play creates intense tragic possibilities, despite the difficulties that may be faced in production. Cleopatra and Octavia are contrasting characters in the play Antony and Cleopatra. Each embodies different aspects of womanhood; each is a model of the qualities that should be seen from the country and culture they belong to. The play centres around the contrast between the lavishness of Egypt with the lineal qualities of the Roman Empire. Egypt is a country of luxurious feasts where eight wild boars are roasted for a breakfast for twelve people (2.2.189-90) and parties; it is a very sexualised place whereas Rome is a country characterised by politics, scenes of intellectuals and battles, thus the lives and loves of a Roman stand in opposition to the lives and loves of an Egyptian. ...read more.

Middle

(Hughes-Hallet, 165) Cleopatra is portrayed as a strong leader of Egypt and in this respect has similarities with Elizabeth I who was on the throne of England through Shakespeare's early life. She like Cleopatra was a dominant figure and felt she embodied Britain as Cleopatra embodied Egypt. How unlike Cleopatra, Elizabeth I was prepared to listen and take advice from others who were experts in the field in question; this resulted in her defeating the Spanish Armada. Unlike Cleopatra who although demanded to be treated as a general upon the war field refused to listen to advice which resulted in awful consequences and subsequently the lose of life for her and Antony. Rome is a place where the need for order and discipline is the norm; there isn't room amongst the Politics and duties for sensuality and pleasure like in Egypt. It is this that causes Antony to be torn 'between the military honour and familial duty of Rome and the sensuality and luxurious life-style of Egypt.' Rome is a predominantly male society which women have no say; it is associated with action, mainly military and political action. Charney describes it as ' a place of conference tables, armour, political decisions and hard materials objects ' (102) ...read more.

Conclusion

Hughes-Hallet observes: Cleopatra chose her own lovers. No Father or Brother gave her to her partners, as Octavius gave his sister to Antony (Hughes-Hallet, 74) In different performances these differences between the two women from opposite cultures can be emphasised in a variety of ways including the uses of costume. Cleopatra's would be more revealing and sexual whereas Octavia's would be long, covering all areas, as a traditional Roman Woman's would be. More subdued lighting could be used on Cleopatra to show her dark and more mysterious manner than Octavia. A strong, predominant actress would portray the role of Cleopatra well just as a more quiet and natural looking actress would perform well in the role of Octavia and thus the two would together would enable the audience to understand the difference between the two women, the two worlds and the two lifestyles. In conclusion I would say Ocatavia and Cleopatra each embody different aspects of womanhood that can be seen in the time of Egyptian dominance of the east and Roman dominance of the west, in Shakespeare's time through Cavaliers and Puritans and nowadays in Eastern and Western countries. They both represent different worlds with different views and help by the end of the play to show that their worlds need to be kept separate because together results in heartache, pain and destruction. Approx. 1828 words ...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. Marked by a teacher

    Explore the ways Shakespeare presents the concept of authority in Antony and Cleopatra

    4 star(s)

    There are many jokey scenes in which the difference in levels of authority almost doesn't seem to matter and they all seem to get on like friends. This can however turn sour when the joke is at the expense of one of the servants as in Act 1, Scene 5,

  2. Peer reviewed

    'Ruthless leader....loving brother....boring Puritan....gracious victor.' Explore the way in which Shakespeare presents the character ...

    He is also very protective towards her and also rather haughty. When Octavia returns to Rome she is rather discreet in her entry, which Caesar deems inappropriate. He tells her how 'The wife of Antony should have an army for an usher.'

  1. Explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra.

    another form of imagery that Shakespeare uses to present the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, it expresses Antony's love for Cleopatra even when he is in his worst possible form. When Antony is looking forward to afterlife with Cleopatra he reveals his feeling through imagery "where souls do couch on

  2. How does Shakespeare use his contrast between Rome and Egypt to present the themes ...

    He does this slowly as he lets the scene set in and then the messenger who is reporting from Rome says, "Caesar and he are greater friends than ever." And Cleopatra sees this as a good thing but the messenger says "But yet, madam" and this is where we can

  1. Antony and Cleopatra - How has Shakespeare presented the three main characters to us ...

    Pompey thinks that Antony is not a threat while he is with Cleopatra, showing that he also thinks she is very domineering. He also thinks that Cleopatra has put a spell on Antony to make him love her. This may change the view of the audience and make them think

  2. Explore how Shakespeare develops the themes of duty

    his former Roman ideals and his new Egyptian way of thinking become clearer, his first line to Cleopatra as he enters the stage is "There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned", implying that his love for her is immeasurable and takes precedence above all, the fact this is

  1. Free essay

    Antony and Cleopatra

    We are allowed to see her theatrical side when she says 'I faint! O Iras, Charmain!' Even though Antony has now married for political reasons his soldiers are sure that he will return once again to his 'Egyptian dish.' Even when Antony is far from Cleopatra, she exerts her magic influence over him.

  2. An exploration of Shakespeare's presentation of Rome and Egypt in Antony and Cleopatra

    "And they have earned the waste." This shows Caesar's pure disrespect for the servants. Another quotation that shows the Romans disrespect is when Antony says to a servant "you are a soldier only." I feel this quotation shows that Antony does not consider the servants as anything except labourers.

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