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What Tensions and Conflicts are Established in Act 1 and Act 2 of Antony and Cleopatra?

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Introduction

What Tensions and Conflicts are Established in Act 1 and Act 2 of Antony and Cleopatra? Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra is a tale of conflict, love and responsibilities. In a world where Egyptian values contrast sharply with those of Rome, personal passions and tensions are set against a backdrop of political and military issues, creating irony and tension. Antony's decadent exploits in the east and his infatuation with Cleopatra, combined with his neglect of duty as a triumvir create drama as they highlight the delicate balance of power which exists within his world. The underlying pressure of war forces forward matters, as the virility and moral standards of the tragic hero come under scrutiny. Firstly, even before Antony and Cleopatra are introduced to the audience, the opening lines from Philo create an expectant atmosphere as he describes the deterioration of Antony from a strong and powerful leader into 'a strumpets fool.' ...read more.

Middle

This devotion for Cleopatra also creates a schism between himself and Caesar, as his obsession with the Egyptian queen leads him to neglect his military obligations. Further personal tensions are aroused between the two lovers as a result of Cleopatra's unpredictable behaviour, which is evident from her numerous outbursts in Act 1 Scene 3 during which she accuses Antony, among other things, of lying and betrayal. Further conflict develops in the opening two acts through the clashing of Roman ideals and Egyptian values. Consequently, Antony's attempt to merge these two incompatible lifestyles leads to hostility and drama in the play, primarily between Caesar and the tragic hero. This is illustrated in Act 1 scene 4, where Caesar describes Antony in an extremely negative light, claiming he is, "A man who is the abstract of all faults that men follow." ...read more.

Conclusion

The contempt he maintains towards the irresponsible lifestyle Antony has been leading is therefore expressed as antagonism towards the tragic hero. Furthermore, tension is shaped as the characters are forced to choose between their desires and their obligations. It is evident with Antony, for example, that his principal inclination is to stay in Egypt and continue his passionate affair with Cleopatra. However, he faces a moral dilemma in that he recognises he has made an oath to the triumvirate to fulfil his duty as a military commander, and so is forced to leave the pleasures of the east. This creates drama within his relationship with the Egyptian queen, as she mocks him for being under the command of Caesar, claiming that when Caesar sends his mandate Antony must yield to the whims of the triumvirate. Consequently, this contributes to the hostility between the two triumvirs, as Antony appears to purposely disregard his military responsibilities as a show of masculinity and autonomy to Cleopatra. Rahim Rahemtulla ...read more.

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