Throughout the play, grapples with the conflict between his love for and his duties to the Roman Empire. In Act 1 scene 1, just after the section above, Antony uses a very destructive image to show where his priorities currently lie by dismissing the duties he has neglected, “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch Of the ranged empire fall”. This is one of the most powerful statements Antony makes as it shows how in love or in some ways under the influence of Cleopatra he is and shows total disrespect to his responsibility to his people when once he was a great leader. Strangely however, in the very next scene, Antony worries that he is about to “lose myself in dotage” and fears that the death of his wife is only one of the ills that his “idleness doth hatch”. This shows a strong sense of unstability in Antony and unassuredness over his duties. First he tells of how he has lost all intrest in the welfare of his people but directly after is worried about how his strong ties with Cleopatra and Egypt may overcome his ability to lead his people. Thus, Antony finds himself torn between the Rome of his duty and the Alexandria of his pleasure. This conflict is very much in line with conflicts of his reason and emotion, his sense of duty and his desire, his obligations to the state and his private needs. Overall from Act 1 the impression that Antony casts is very much different to what the Shakespearian audience would be accustomed to as they will have been familiar with Antony as a loyal, honorable and brave man in the previous shakespeare play, Julius Ceasar. However with quotes such as above and the disrespect and unwillingness Antony gives of hearing the Messenger’s message would have been a very new occurrence to the audience and would seem as though this was not ‘the’ Antony that they had heard legends about.
Not only is it Antony who seems to be split in half, we also see Cleopatra during Act 1 in many different ways consequently illustrating the varying understandings of her as an indulgent woman who enjoys to relax and live a life of fun but also as a noble ruler. A highly attractive woman who once seduced Julius Caesar, Cleopatra delights in the thought that she has caught Antony like a fish and seems to be proud that she can have such powerful men as she refers back to Julius Ceasar even though it was a distant memory.As Philo and Demetrius take the stage in Act 1 scene 1, their complaints about ’s neglected duties and the declararion thats Cleopatra is a lustful “gipsy,” a description that is repeated throughout the play but also labeled a “wrangling queen” and a “slave” are shocking descriptions of such a powerful and highly respected noble which shows to the audience that Cleopatra has another side to her. In a noble ruler, such characteristics that Cleopatra holds are very rare and unique, such as her dramatization of her volatile emotions almost bordering on the theatrical regardless of the audience whether it be her maids or Antony. Even though she over-exaggerates her emotions such as her instant “I am sick and sullen” as Antony enters cannot put doubt to the fact that she carries genuine love for Antony. Shakespeare makes this clear in her confessions to Charmian in Act 1 scene 3 and all the trouble she goes to to keep her man even if her actions may seem peculiar for a normal love affair.
One of the main themes in Antony and Cleopatra details the conflict between Rome and Egypt. In the play, the two very different territories of the world are characterized by those who lead them, in Rome’s case being Caesar, who embodies the unflappable duty of Rome with many specific aims (war, power, land), while Cleopatra, in all her theatrical self, represents the free-flowing passions, luxury and indulgence of Egypt which seems far from Rome’s ideal. Caesar’s concerns throughout the play are certainly clear, he means to invade foreign lands in order to invest them with traditions and rulings of his own. To Caesar, the queen of Egypt is little more than a whore with a skill for using drama as a manipulitative device. This belief allows no real way for Cleopatra to influence him using her sexuality and therefore results in the possibility that Ceasar is the only one with no responsibilities to anyone but himself and therefore is the only one who has a clear head. It is in Act 1 scene 4 where this is best seen, meets with Lepidus to discuss the threat that poses to the empire. Here, he lays into for staying in Egypt, where he “Pawn their experience to the present pleasure” at the expense of his duty to the state. This speech plays a significant role in defining the two cultures (Rome and Egypt) and the comparision of Romes sesibility and hard working ethics against ’s lavish Egypt. This speech also dismisses Antony’s passion for Cleopatra as irresponsibility of childish levels, he again reinstates the Roman ethic of duty over pleasure.
In general, it is fair to say that in Act 1 Shakespeare focuses on the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra which later becomes the catalyst for the unravellment of the conflicts between the two empires, the triumvirate and more specifically Ceasar and Antony and the conflict between Antonys desires and his duties. In Shakespeare’s presentation of both characters, it is apparent that all is not as the audience expects and that both have particular attributes, beliefs and skills which make them into a very much more mysterious and capable of great destruction on others as with one another.