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


Extracts from this document...


OPPOSITIONAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra is aptly named, not just because the play centers around these two characters, but also because it encompasses the play's fixation on the lovers' oppositional relationship. On the surface level, Antony embodies the Roman ideals of a good, noble man, while Cleopatra represents the hyper-sexualized, dangerous Eastern woman. However, upon further examination both Antony and Cleopatra display complicated internal conflicts that effectively reverse these polar positions repeatedly throughout the play. In this way, the opposition between Antony and Cleopatra that exists on a simple, interpersonal level is echoed by more complicated, internal conflicts within each of these characters on a deeper, more individual level. The tension between the title characters creates the love that draws them together at the same time as it drives them further apart, thus establishing yet another layer of antagonistic relationships within the play. The importance of these oppositional relationships is underlined most starkly in Act II.2. In particular Enobarbus' speech describing Cleopatra's beauty functions as one of the greatest statements of the play's conflicting themes. This speech reflects the antagonistic nature of the play's central relationships through the invocation of equivalent antagonistic relationships between the violent descriptors used to depict Cleopatra. ...read more.


This mysticism reaches higher levels when the oars complete an anthropomorphosis, dancing to the tune of flutes. However, these fanciful descriptions are quickly countered by the violent word "beat" and the juxtaposition of the word "amorous" soon after. Here again love, even between inanimate objects, is associated with pain and gratuitous violence. This oppositional and violent theme continues with descriptions of Cleopatra. Enobarbus claims, "For her own person,/ It beggared all description" (Antony and Cleopatra, II, 2, lines CCVII-CCVIII). In the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "beggared" is defined as being "reduced to destitution or impoverished" (OED). This gives the word a violent and dramatic feel. Enobarbus could easily use a more generic term of praise and say something to the degree of, "Cleopatra's beauty was beyond words", yet instead he chooses a distinctly charged word. Cleopatra's domineering mystique seems to strip description of its power, rather than simply deny it. However, the violence of her beauty is counteracted by the sheer divine power of her surroundings. She lies "In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue/ O'erpicturing that Venus where we see/ The fancy outwork nature" (Antony and Cleopatra, II, 2, lines CCVIII-CCXI). Importantly, Enobarbus references Venus, the Roman goddess of beauty and sensual love. ...read more.


These battles continue even as Enobarbus closes his speech by describing Cleopatra's acting skills. He claims that "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/ Her infinite variety. Other women cloy/ The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry/ Where she most satisfies" (Antony and Cleopatra, II, 2, lines CCXLVI-CCXLIX). These final lines encompass the underlying and understated sentiment of the entire speech. Cleopatra's beauty and the passions it sparks only satisfy as much hunger as they create. Just like the fanning cupids that surround her, she "undoes" what she does. Throughout his speech, Enobarbus describes Cleopatra in similar oppositional terms. Where she is beautiful she is violently ugly; where she satisfies she creates hunger; where she does she undoes. Cleopatra's conflicting nature becomes the basis for defining Antony and Cleopatra's equally oppositional relationship. The battles within her reflect Antony's personal struggles, as well as the greater wars within their relationship. Thus, the dualities within Enobarbus' speech reflect the oppositional relationships both within the play as a whole and within the greater context of Act II.ii. Antony and Cleopatra struggle to define themselves on intra- and inter-personal levels as well as within the greater societal sphere. Ultimately, they can never fully resolve the polar oppositions that exist both within and between them. This results in the physical and emotional violence that is both reflected and predicted in Enobarbus' speech. ...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

    'Cleopatra is often interpreted as the designing woman who brings down a worthy soldier ...

    5 star(s)

    It cannot be forgotten that Cleopatra too has a throne to sit upon. She does not bring about Antony's fall; in my view his political demise began before he ever met her. It is no secret that historically, his relationship with Octavius was strained regardless of Cleopatra's role.

  2. Free essay

    Antony and Cleopatra

    Octavia is used to cement the Roman world and to 'knit your hearts with an unslipping knot.' This is the opposite of Cleopatra due to the fact that she would always want to be the most assertive partner in the relationship and she would not allow herself to be overpowered or be manipulated by a man.

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

    flowers" which gives a peaceful image of afterlife, which is a way in which Shakespeare presents their relationship because Antony is picturing these peaceful images of afterlife with Cleopatra whom is his only concern. In Act four-scene fifteen Antony dies in Cleopatra's arms.

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

    she wishes she were bigger, so she could beat up Antony: "I would I had thy inches! Thou shouldst know There were a heart in Egypt!" (line 42) This would be quite comical, which is another device of Shakespeare's to make the audience enjoy her character.

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

    Messenger: Madam, I heard her speak; she is low-voiced Cleopatra: That's not so good. He cannot like her long. (3.3.13-15) This helps the audience to understand and agree with Antony's abandonment of Octavia and makes us think of Antony and Cleopatra's relationship as more than just and adulterous affair.

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

    Thus, despite the Roman world priding themselves on nobility, their Empire is a slight facade. This tawdriness is again emphasised by the Romans' false allegiance to one another. Lepidus flatters his 'noble friends' and 'noble partners' so often; there is a strong suggestion that his words are not genuine.

  1. Antony & Cleopatra - language

    Thus, the reader can learn that Antony is being influenced by Egypt as his language is changing and his priorities are altered. The reader could also infer Antony seems slightly emasculated as a result of the empowering Queen by the use of his romantic, graceful language and tentative nouns.

  2. How does Enobarbus portray Cleopatra in Act 2 Scene 2 throughout the barge scene, ...

    Caesural pauses are used throughout Enobarbus? description, and these pauses help emphasise how breath taking Cleopatra seems to be.

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