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

How does Shakespeare's play present these oppositions? In Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Michelle Chandel 13J English - Mr Thorpe Shakespeare used as his source for his play North's translation of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Plutarch, along with other Greek and Roman authors, saw an opposition between the conquering West, standing for moral and political virtue, and the conquered East representing luxury and decadence. How does Shakespeare's play present these oppositions? In Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, it is obvious to see the distinction between the decadent and luxurious East, and the West which stands for its moral and political virtue. This opposition between the East and the West is also apparent in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. We see this in the opening scene with a technique used by Shakespeare, where the opening is framed, so that the audience is caught in the middle of the conversation. The conversation is between Philo and Demetrius - fellow Roman officers, who are strongly disapproving of Antony's love for Cleopatra. They discuss how Antony's 'love' for Cleopatra is only a mere infatuation for a 'harlot'. There is further debate that this obsession for the Queen of Egypt is steering a powerful leader away from his greatness and concentration. Shakespeare has carefully chosen this framing device as the opening of his play, because it is structured so that the love affair is seem from a Roman perspective and framed by Roman disapproval. Their conversation about the current situation between the plush Egypt and the honourable Rome can be seen as a microcosm of the whole situation. ...read more.

Middle

On other occasions, Enobarbus changes from prose to poetry, as when he describes Cleopatra's barge on the river Cyndus. Enobarbus is given a significant amount of freedom in what he can say. At the start of this scene, Enobarbus makes it clear to Lepidus that he has not the slightest intention of trying to restrict what Antony might say and that he, like his master, will 'answer like himself.' Therefore, Enobarbus interrupts the triumvirs' conversation with home truths at so many times, that Antony requests that he 'speak no more'. Enobarbus responds fearfully with this quotation: 'Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety...' As well as learning from the main characters of the play, Shakespeare also offers a substantial amount of importance to the minor characters. For example, the Roman soldiers, Philo and Demetrius are 'caught' gossiping about the conflicts and issues between Rome and Egypt, at the beginning of the play. This powerful technique allows the audience to understand that the Antony-Cleopatra affair is the 'talk of the town' and that even the men, who are expected to be on Antony's side, are gossiping about their leader. It is structured so that the love affair is seen from a Roman perspective and framed by Roman disapproval. Also, the lesser characters play their part at the time of Cleopatra's death. The clown, adds a comic note with his verbal errors and coarse innuendo, while Cleopatra's maidservants, with their loyalty and affection, help to give a human touch and to acclaim Cleopatra in Charmian's moving tribute as a 'lass unparalleled' (Act4.2.3) ...read more.

Conclusion

Enobarbus tries and fails to persuade Cleopatra not to be present in Antony's camp because he thinks she will be a distraction, but she does not listen. Shakespeare shows large differences between the virtuous Rome and decadent East. Act 2, Scene 2 is able to show these differences clearly; when the triumvirs call a truce and Antony agrees to marry Octavia. In the same scene, Enobarbus describes Antony's first meeting with Cleopatra. The contrasting worlds of Egypt and Rome are very much dramatically juxtaposed. There is an immense sense of life and art during the description of Cleopatra, which Shakespeare has cleverly placed after the tense political decisions, which had just taken place. By exploring Antony and Cleopatra, we are able to see the differences that Shakespeare makes between the East and the West. However, most of the people are affected due to influences from both countries. An audience at that time may not be able to have distinguished the influences of both countries as easily as a modern day audience because of prejudices within the play, such as racism and sexism. A Jacobean audience may have appreciated Rome more because of their moral values, whereas the occurrences of Rome would be viewed as offensive for a modern audience. Therefore, we can come to a conclusion that Shakespeare does not fully present Plutarch's differences because Shakespeare is also concerned about the fact that both countries are not totally hostile to one another. Opposition lies between the two countries, however it lies more so within the characters of the play and we could understand that an audience of Shakespeare's time and a modern day audience would be aware of this. ...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)

    At times they seem to get on like old friends and Antony is generally more than pleased to take his advice, but he will also pull rank if he doesn't like what he's hearing as is shown in Act 2, Scene 2: "Antony: Thou art a soldier only.

  2. Compare the roles of Enobarbus and Charmian

    However after a closer look it is quite clear they are quite different characters. The main difference between these two characters is that Charmian stayed faithful to Cleopatra where as Enobarbus did not. Cleopatra and Charmian begin the play together, and they end it together, where as Antony and Enobarbus begin it together, and they end it very much apart.

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

    Caesar makes long speeches, while Antony's are very short: "How intends you, 'practis'd?" (line 46) Shakespeare presents Antony as a 'cool' and 'calm' character, but not in the same sense as in Egypt, where he is a relaxed calm. In this scene we see a confident calm.

  2. Explore how Shakespeare develops the themes of duty

    brash way in which he says this can be seen as a Antony disregarding his love for Cleopatra in the face of duty and responsibility. In Act 3, Scene 3 the use of Octavia as a way of mending the broken bonds between the two Romans becomes a particularly contentious

  1. Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra

    He focuses more on Cleopatra, labelling her 'ribaudred nag of Egypt' and later likening her flight to that of a maddened cow stung by a gadfly ('breeze'). However, in scene 13 when she asks whose fault it is, Enobarbus

  2. Examine the contrast between Cleopatra and Octavia. How do they embody different aspects of ...

    her directly from Plutarch's portrait of her and the reputation she left behind. Cleopatra is a mixed character and has sudden switches of behaviour from one mood to another, for instances the arrival of a messenger from Rome telling Cleopatra of Octavia, Antony's new bride.

  1. Essentially Antony and Cleopatra is a story of power politics; its theme is not ...

    She also tells a messenger that when he sees Antony 'If you find him sad, /Say I am dancing; if in mirth report /That I am sudden sick'. Love is often used as a political tool. Cleopatra engineered a relationship with Julius Caesar to advance her own power.

  2. "A better title for this play would be 'Cleopatra and Antony' because Cleopatra is ...

    She recalls of the time, when she "drunk him to his bed; Then put my tires and mantles on him, whilst I wore his sword Philippan." Shakespeare presents an emasculated Antony in several ways - as a eunuch, a pleasure-seeking boy, and cross-dressed as a woman, to a Jacobean audience

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