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What do we learn about Antony and Cleopatra and their relationship from this opening scene?

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Introduction

English Prep Antony and Cleopatra Question: What do we learn about Antony and Cleopatra and their relationship from this opening scene? Answer: This scene presents the readers with a brief preface to the universally known love story of Antony, the 'triple power of this world', and Cleopatra, his 'wrangling strumpet'. The scene opens with two Romans, Philo and Demetrius, discussing the incredible power Cleopatra has over Antony and the remarkable change they can perceive in Antony's character. Through Philo's opening speech we are told that Antony's former qualities included those of a strong-minded ruler and a valiant warrior, including physical prowess and military skill. However, the Romans now see him as a changed man who is no longer behaving like a ruler; instead of fulfilling the duties of a leader and returning to Rome, he is being ruled by a "tawny gypsy". ...read more.

Middle

Cleopatra is his self-indulgence, and he cannot entirely understand his great sexual passion for her. We know that his overindulgence leads to a loss of reason and control later in the play, and the disregard he expresses in this first scene towards his obligations makes us aware of the great power his passion has. "Let the Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch/of their love." His indifference towards the news from Rome again illustrates how he is shirking his duties in Rome when under the spell of the exotic, mysterious eastern monarch. From the first scene, we learn of Cleopatra's 'tawny front', entrapment of a great general and her 'gypsy lust'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Antony is married to Fulvia, and Cleopatra questions his love for his wife...is it greater than the love he holds for her? We see here that her love for Antony is possessive, yet she too depends on it. Although she dominates Antony in the opening exchanges, her first line 'If it be love indeed, tell me how much' points to the ever searching, questing, explorative nature of her personality. She teases, wrangles and resists the definite, whilst playing on Antony's weak spots, reminding him of his wife and public responsibilities. Thus, I feel the strongest aspect of the relationship that Shakespeare conveys here is highlighted when Antony tells Cleopatra 'There's not a minute of our lives should stretch/Without some pleasure now': all is to be reduced and sacrificed for the sensuous, intense pleasure of the moment - hedonism is to predominate over duty and responsibility. ...read more.

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