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Explore the ways in which Shakespeare presents Rome and Egypt. How are the contrasts between them reflected in the characters of ‘Antony and Cleopatra?’

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Introduction

"Antony and Cleopatra" is the tragic story of one of the triumvirs, Antony, who is deeply in love with the pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra, but their love seems doomed. This is due to problems in their relationship that are caused not only by these two lovers, but also by others in the two countries. In "Antony and Cleopatra," there are a number of contrasting impressions of the Egyptian and Roman cultures and society. The major differences are in the environments and the societies of both Egypt and Rome. This can be seen through the many characters in both Rome and Egypt. In Rome, the main characters consist of the triumvirs, which include Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus. There are also both Antony's and Caesar's friends and followers, the other major character being Enobarbus, a close friend of Mark Antony. Egypt is ruled by the pharaoh, Cleopatra, who has had many known relationships with powerful men. Then there are her attendants, including Charmian, Iras, and Alexus. In Rome, the general society is full of military expenditures and strategy, and this leads to a great deal of tension and many problems arise from early on in the play, and this can frustrate Antony as they intrude into his life with Cleopatra. ...read more.

Middle

This includes Caesar and Octavia, and they seem to be the more serious characters in the play. This can be seen when Caesar, Antony, Lepidus, and Pompey are having a drink (Act II, Scene 7), when Antony and Lepidus are clearly enjoying themselves and drinking without limits, whereas Caesar is more relaxed and controlled in his drinking. The other type of characters in the play, believe in "Epicureanism." These characters are those who believed that one should enjoy life while they can. An example of such a character would be someone such as Antony or Cleopatra. This can be seen when Cleopatra described to her maid, Charmian what once happened between her and Antony. She says: "...I drunk him to his bed; Then put my tires and mantles on him, whilst I wore his sword Philippan." This illustrates to the audience the type of relationship Cleopatra and Antony had. Caesar or Octavia would never do this, and this enforces the idea of the different characters within the play and with these two sets of characters mainly situated in one area, either Egypt or Rome, it shows the contrasts between both lands. Also, the characters of both Antony and Cleopatra differ. ...read more.

Conclusion

This incident with the return of Octavia also shows the contrasts between the two main female figures in each land - Octavia in Rome, and Cleopatra in Egypt. The way Cleopatra enters a place differs from that of Octavia and this is presented to the audience when in Act 2 Scene 2, Enobarbus describes how Cleopatra entered the river of Cydnus. She is portrayed to the audience as more of a goddess rather than a pharaoh, and her barge is described: "Purple were the sails, and so perfum�d that The winds were lovesick with them." This suggests that a great deal of care has been taken with the transportation of Cleopatra, and she wants to show off and present to the world of Cleopatra as a goddess. Overall, Shakespeare has allowed the audiences to experience and explore both the cultures of Egypt and Rome through the characters and has made this easier by allowing the audience to compare Antony with Caesar, as they are two men, and Octavia with Cleopatra, the two main female characters in the plot, but others assist in making it evident that there is a great deal of contrast between the two lands and the characters who are comfortable in them. ?? ?? ?? ?? Deepak Singh Drubhra 01 May 2007 - 1 - ...read more.

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