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In Act 5 of Antony and Cleopatra, Maecenas says that Antonys taints and honours waged equal with him. To what extent, and in what ways, does Shakespeare prepare the audience for this view in the first two acts of the play?

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Introduction

´╗┐Sam Ford In Act 5 of ?Antony and Cleopatra?, Maecenas says that Antony?s ?taints and honours waged equal with him?. To what extent, and in what ways, does Shakespeare prepare the audience for this view in the first two acts of the play? In Shakespeare?s ?Antony and Cleopatra?, different comments and views of Antony are given to explore his ?taints and honours?. Through people?s remarks and obvious changing attitudes towards Antony, the audience are shown the changeability of his disposition as a consequence of the place his is situated, Rome or Egypt. The effect his company has on him is crucial to the perception the audience take of him, most significantly, the relationship between himself and Cleopatra, the ?gypsy queen? of Egypt. Shakespeare uses Philo to give the audience the view of Antony from a Roman perspective in a conversation with Demetrius, a friend and supporter of Antony, and give light to the concerns that Antony is placing his personal life before that of state issues, which subsequently supports the belief that Antony is neglecting his duties and responsibilities as a Triumvir. Antony?s position as part of the Triumvirate, ruler of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, coincides with the Aristotelian belief that the tragic hero should be of high rank or nobility, in order to heighten the intensity of the tragedy as they supposedly have further to fall. ...read more.

Middle

Antony?s overwhelming love for Cleopatra and sensuous indulgence, of which Egypt represents, constantly draws him away from his responsibilities, which Rome represents, and creates the tension and ultimately the war and death of the lover?s. Harley Granville-Barker also argues, that in Antony and Cleopatra ?Roman and Egyptian are set against each other; and this operation braces the whole body of the play?. William Hazlitt defines these polarities as ?Roman pride versus Egyptian magnificence?, and Lloyd furthers this definition by summarising the conflicting forces as, ?War and business versus love and pleasure; and, more comprehensively, the love-pleasure principle, intuition, and spontaneous affection versus duty, practical and worldly reason, and a restrictive morality?. In Act 1 Scene 1, Antony is approached by a messenger from Rome to which he reacts to in disdain and irritation, ?Grates me! The sum?, and then dismissing him, ?Speak not to us?, but when Antony re-enters in Scene 2 without Cleopatra, he gives heed to him. It seems that whenever with Cleopatra, all care for responsibility is expelled from his thought, but when he is alone and free from her enchantment he is transformed into his ?Roman? self, realising the effect Cleopatra has on him, ?These strong Egyptian fetters I must break, or lose myself in dotage.? This again accentuates the mysterious force Cleopatra possesses over him, and gives credence to Philo?s original comment that ?this dotage of our general?s o?erflows the measure?. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite Caesar?s contempt for Antony?s negligence of duty, Caesar is almost pleading for his quick return, as he is fully aware of the imposing threat of the current political situation concerning Pompey and his ever increasing strength in war. Caesar recognises that he needs Antony and his extensive armies, and asks him to ?leave thy lascivious wassails?. Caesar seemingly addresses Antony directly, as if in conversation, which may be employed by Shakespeare to heighten emphasis and create the sense of pleading and desperation. Most notably in his speech, Caesar gives a recollection of the Antony of former days, one who ?didst drink the stale of horses and the gilded puddle which beasts would cough at? to survive the rigours he faced. He glorifies Antony saying he had ?patience more than savages could suffer? and even though he faced such things, he ?was borne so like a soldier that thy cheek so much as lanked not.? Through Caesar, Shakespeare gives the audience an insight to the ascetic existence Antony once lived, so we too can comprehend the frustration Caesar has, when discussing the polarity of Antony?s past glory to his current idleness. Antony?s great reputation is again accentuated in Act Two Scene Seven by the soothsayer, claiming his spirit is ?Noble, courageous, high unmatchable?. Through the disparagement and commendation of Antony throughout acts one and two, the audience can concur with Maecenas?s remark that his ?taints and honours waged equal with him?. ...read more.

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