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"The Triple Pillar of the World Transformed into a Strumpet's Fool." Is this an accurate view of Antony?

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Introduction

"The Triple Pillar of the World Transformed into a Strumpet's Fool." Is this an accurate view of Antony? Shakespeare's chief source for Antony and Cleopatra was Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes translated by Thomas North (1579). Plutarch largely portrayed Mark Antony as a vain and dissolute character, juxtaposed against the heroism and virtues of his compatriots. Shakespeare plays down these attributes for more dramatic effect, choosing to make Antony a more complex, three-dimensional, and ultimately flawed character. Antony could be said to be the object of focus throughout the whole play, as his time on stage is spent always in the middle, and while his presence is absent, he is constantly the subject of conversation. Through this we are able to make our own judgements of whether "Antony becomes his flow", or whether we agree with Cleopatra's description of him as a "Herculean Roman". Cleopatra humiliates Antony in front of Demetrius, Philo, Charmian, Iris, eunuchs and Cleopatra's ladies by scalding Antony with her harsh words: "Thou blushest, Antony, and that blood of thine is Caesar's homager." The domestic arguing in the presence of those of lower status is somewhat embarrassing for a "Herculean Roman", and transforms Antony into a "strumpet's fool". ...read more.

Middle

Your mariners are muleteers, reapers, people engrossed by swift impress... No disgrace shall fall you for refusing him at sea, being prepared for land." In this situation Antony fulfils the image of a strumpet's fool, as he knows his skills lie fighting on land, but his pride leads him to accept the challenge by sea, only to lose to Caesar. Cleopatra talks about Antony as if he were her prey and she his predator: "My bended hook shall pierce their slimy jaws and as I draw them up, I'll think them every one an Antony, and say "Ah, ha! Y'are caught!" This imagery of Antony as a defenceless fish mocks him in front of the audience, and creates the sense that Cleopatra is totally in control over him. This is continued through the way Cleopatra tells the tales of her times with Antony: "I laughed him out of patience", "and that night I laughed him into patience" "I drunk him to his bed" "Whilst I wave his sword Philippan" Cleopatra is constantly the active part in her speech, which suggests that everything is done for Antony, as he is the indirect object in each case. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that several of the leading characters sustain their loyalty to Antony throughout goes to uphold this view. For example, Eros is asked by Antony to carry out his sworn duty to kill his master after the debacle of the failed military campaign. Eros, however, commits suicide rather than fulfil his duty out of loyalty to Antony, an act that would serve to ennoble him to an Elizabethan audience. Also Antony's relationship with Enobartus, although ultimately tragic, reflects the latter's deep respect for his nobility. When Enobartus realises that Antony has lost all reason in embarking on the final battle, he is forced to leave his friend and leader: "Now he'll outstare the lightning. To be furious "Is to be frightened out of fear, and in that mood "The dove will peck the estridge" The fact that Enobartus later dies of grief for the failure of it all would have generated a huge amount of sympathy from the audience. To conclude, the view that Mark Antony is a triple pillar of the world transformed into a Strumpet's fool "is only a partly accurate view. The "Marcus Antonius "of Plutarch's works may well be just that, but Shakespeare evolves the character into a much more tragic and human persona, ultimately ennobled by the loyalty of his friends and servants. ...read more.

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