Antony and Cleopatra to mythological gods because it highlights their features in
Cleopatra’s case her overwhelming beauty and in Antony his power to rule.
Shakespeare uses Enobarbus to convey an objective point of view and also to move
Antony is also described as
“The Demi-Atlas of this earth and
Burgonet of men”
The triumvir ruled Rome. This metaphore conveys to the audience that even though Antony is now lovesick fool he was once a powerful and feared man. This is ironic because we later find out that Antony’s favourite god was Hercules who was said to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders for a hundred years to release Mars of his duties.
Once Antony has completely fallen for Cleopatra he is also sadly married to Octavia to try and keep the triumvir together. Octavia uses imagery of an Egyptian god Jove
“ The Jove of Power make me weak.”
Octavia uses imagery of Egypt, which is essentially Cleopatra, which is ironic because Antony is weak to Cleopatra’s charms and this is the reason the marriage fails.
Enobarbus’s description of Cleopatra in the barge uses exaggerated language
“Purpled sails, and so perfumed that
The wind was love sick with them.”
She fills the air, almost pollutes it with her aura of outstanding beauty. Not even the elements can dilute the smell of her and the barge. The water, sails and wind are all personified and it is as if the elements want to keep up with her outstanding beauty.
“Burned on the water; the poop was beaten gold.”
The use of rich colours symbolises the royalty that surrounds her.
Cleopatra is compared to Venus as Antony is compared to Mars.
“O’erpictyring that Venus where we see
The fancy out work nature.”
She is more beautiful than an artist’s impression of Venus, which conveys to the audience again via Enobarbus just how beautiful she is.
Throughout the play Enobarbus is the main source of imaginative language, as he is a dramatic device who offers an objective commentary. Shakespeare also uses decay imagery to show the break up of characters and relationships.
“Sink Rome and let their tongues rot.”
This represents Cleopatra’s resentment towards the Roman’s at this point in the play. Cleopatra is commenting on how she does not care for the Roman’s view of her. This is why Shakespeare uses the image of a tongue rotting because it conjures up an image of dirt and decay, which is how she views the Romans point of view.
Shakespeare also uses decay when Antony and Cleopatra are arguing in 3.13
“Ah dear, if I be so,
From my cold heart let heaven engender hail
And poison it in the source, and the first stone…
Together with my brave Egyptians all,
By the discandying of this pelleted storm,
Lie graveless, till the flies and gnats of Nile
Have burned them for prey.”
Cleopatra explains to Antony that if he feels she is being cold hearted towards him he is wrong because she would rather have heaven send down a poisonous hail, and for it to kill her, her child and all her fellow Egyptians. And once dead for the gnats of the Nile to feed upon their corpses and to be digested by them. This is ironic because it is Egypt that eventually engulfs Antony causing him to take his own life. The Nile represents Cleopatra because during certain times of the year it is a beautiful area but at other times it is a breeding ground for gnats. This is Cleopatra’s two sides and how she can change.
There is also irony in the play. Cleopatra talks of snakes. At this point in the play a messenger has brought the news of Antony’s marriage to Octavia.
“Melt Egypt into the Nile…I will not bite him. Call!”
She sends for the messenger to relay the rest of his message saying she will not bite him like a snake. This is ironic because it is the bite of an asp that kills Cleopatra. Asps are the snakes of Nile and this symbolises how it is in fact Egypt and the need for Egyptians to indulge which kills her; also the cultural difference of Rome and Egypt that separate Antony and Cleopatra.
Shakespeare uses food imagery to represent Egyptian culture. Egyptians in the play have a large sensual appetite.
“Give me some music-music moody food.”
Cleopatra an Egyptian bathes herself in sensual pleasure and this represents how Egyptians and Romans have different values, and this is part of the reason why Antony loses his position of great rule because he cannot indulge because he is a Roman with Roman values. Shakespeare uses food imagery to convey this message to the audience.
The moon represents Antony’s character
“Our terrene moon is now eclipsed
And it portends alone the fall of Antony.”
Antony has now been eclipsed. He has come full cycle, risen and is now fallen. It is now Caesar’s turn to rule.
Shakespeare uses mythology, decay, food imagery and irony to convey to the audience how the characters and relationships have changed, how life styles and Roman and Egyptian priorities clash. He uses mythological imagery because the audience were familiar with them and also because he compares mortals to mythological characters with highly flamboyant characteristics. Such as Cleopatra’s beauty and Antony’s leadership qualities. Decay is a strong type of imagery that shows split and strong aggressive emotions of the characters. The irony gives the audience clues to how the play could end and gives the play an inventive twist. Enobarbus invites the characters and therefore the audience to make opinions and give us insight to the characters and their personalities. Shakespeare also uses elements as a form of imagery. Using elements and myths creates a very strong image of power. But this also links in with decay as well because most of the myths end in tragedy.
This is aslo symbolic of Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship.