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

"In 'Antony and Cleopatra', Shakespeare is particularly interested in the psychological burdens that those in positions of power must endure". Examine the different representations of leadership in the play.

Extracts from this document...


"In 'Antony and Cleopatra', Shakespeare is particularly interested in the psychological burdens that those in positions of power must endure". Examine the different representations of leadership in the play. As is often true of the study of history in general, the people who dominate Shakespeare's historical plays are those in positions of power and authority. This is simply because such people will be the ones to effect history in the most significant way. In 'Antony and Cleopatra' we see several different leadership figures, who show all of the range of burdens, strains and qualities that those in positions of power can have (such as Antony himself, Cleopatra, Caesar, Lepidus and Pompey). In terms of leadership, Classical Renaissance ideas can be very helpful when trying to approach Antony and Cleopatra for the first time. The traditional idea of heroism and leadership was summed up in the quality known as 'virtus', which describes the characteristics of a virile nature, military strength, and old ideas of chivalry and honour. Renaissance artists such as Machiavelli in 'The Prince', modified this to emphasise calm ruthlessness and intellectual power. As we shall see, these two opposing views of what a leader should be (the traditional and renaissance ideals) are reflected in the struggle between Antony and Caesar. Antony, representing the old 'virus' values, is defeated and replaced by Caesar, representing the Machiavellian hero. Thus I shall begin with these two characters, whose conflict is vitally central to the play. ...read more.


This seems all the more heartless when we realise that Antony was a close and dear friend to Octavius's father, Julius Caesar. However at the same time he is shown as the successful strategist and ruler. This pehaps is meant to demonstate the idea that a truly great leader cannot be an overly emotionally figure. He represents Roman efficiency and Duty to the state, whose interests must be held before all others, and achieved by whatever means necessary. This manipulative nature is shown through his reconciliation with Antony. Caesar needs Antony's military skill in the war against Pompey, and can see that the Roman people, who do not love Caesar ("Caesar gets money where/ he loses hearts" Act2 Scene1), will follow the heroic Antony into battle. The marriage that he orchestrates between his sister and Antony shows that he is a figure who is only able to gain loyalty through his manipulation of others. We must still recognise, however, that Caesar has all the qualities necessary to be a good leader. Indeed he seems not to feel any of the psychological burdens that come with leadership. He seems to be sufficiently focused on the success of Rome, to think that any burdens he does feel must be tolerated out of a sense of duty, but also to satisfy his ambition. He sees Antony as having become a "strumpet's fool", and his pursuit of pleasure being an intolerable burden placed on the triumvirate. ...read more.


Even so, neither generous tolerance, nor any other of the humane qualities that Lepidus shows, are seen (at least in Shakespeare's eyes) to be insignificant on the grand scale of events. Our last image of him, is the sight of the third "pillar of the world" being carried out drunk. Lepidus's eventual imprisonment by Caesar acts as an example that, in the world of politics and power, benevolence will always be crushed by ruthlessness. Pompey, like Lepidus is another slightly mediocre leader. His reputation and power stem from the esteem in which his father Pompey the Great was held. Indeed the strong position he is in only exists because of the total disarray that the triumvirate is in. Despite this he accepts the terms he is offered by them very readily (largely due to Antony's presence), a decision that causes Menas to doubt his judgement: "the father, Pompey, would ne'er have made this treaty". Pompey's refusal to sanction the murder of the triumvirs, whilst admitting that he would have welcomed its being done without his knowledge, reveals a lot about Pompey. It shows at once a cowardice and lack of ruthlessness that, (like Lepidus) means that he can never be a truly successful leader. Through the characterisation of the different leaders mentioned above, Shakespeare manages to demonstrate the different strains that those in positions of power must tolerate, and we see that in the end there is no room for romantic compassion or weakness, if one wants to become a successful leader. ...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. Peer reviewed

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

    This again shows how Caesar's ascetic nature rejects fun and frivolity. Even Pompey reminds Antony and his close followers that it is not 'an Alexandrian feast.' This reflects what Caesar is probably thinking, however Caesar does not state this idea directly, he avoids the issue of Egypt, because it most

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

    Cleopatra is Egypt and Octavia is Rome, Antony must choose which life to led. Cleopatra and Octavia act merely as a visible contrast between each other's culture.

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

    him, against the judgement of his fellow soldiers, that to fight at sea would be more successful than battle on land. Moreover, Cleopatra claims that Antony's 'mouth-made vows' 'break themselves in swearing' suggesting that she cannot trust anything he says.

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

    although it is Cleopatra's fault, Antony blames himself for being a fool, "Egypt, thou knew'st too well / My heart was to thy rudder tied by th'strings". Proved by his reactions to Enobarbus betraying him, Antony was unlikely to lose his temper but Cleopatra is his raw nerve and shows

  1. Explore how Shakespeare develops the themes of duty

    "wide arch" in the same breath and sentence as he confirms it. It is not just through the characters that the theme of love and lust is developed in Act 1, Scene 1; the structure of the scene itself functions in such a way that the audiences' first perspective of

  2. Antony is often talked of as a tragic hero, a great and admiral man ...

    Fly, And make your peace with Caesar." Here he tells his men to share out the gold he has in his ship and go and join Caesar. The audience then find out that Antony's men are very loyal as they say "Fly?

  1. Explore the presentation and effects of love in Antony and Cleopatra.

    As Antony is one of three rulers of Rome it should be his primary concern to uphold the Roman Empire rather than dismissing it for love. In addition to this Antony describes the empire as having a "wide arch" this metaphor illustrates to the audience that he believes that the Roman Empire is strong and will remain strong without him.

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

    The supposed strength of this union is subjected to doubts and reservations as unity among the members is deficient. Shakespeare also presents the dynamics of the triumvirate through the triumvirate members themselves. In Act I Scene IV, Lepidus and Caesar show a clearer view of the relationships that govern the triumvirate.

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