Explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra.

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English Literature: Shakespeare coursework

Explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra

The epic love affair of Antony and Cleopatra is a great and powerful love shared by two people at the height of their fame and glory, and it is Shakespeare’s greatness to show Antony and Cleopatra in love, in the celebration of their love before disaster strikes, and after it has struck. There are many aspects to the way in which Shakespeare presents this relationship between these two characters.

In Act One-scene 1, we first see Antony and Cleopatra together as Cleopatra challenges Antony to say how much he loves her, “if it be love indeed, tell me how much”, Antony’s reply, that his love is so great that it exceeds the boundaries of heaven and earth, is reinforced by his dismissal of the news from Rome. Antony uses extravagant, expansive statements to express the nature of his love. Shakespeare’s use of extravagant and exaggerated figure of speech through the words of Antony, hyperbole, emphasizes the immensity of his passion. This example of Hyperbole is an example of how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, because it is through his language on this particular occasion that he expresses the love Antony has for Cleopatra. Other examples of exaggerated language that Shakespeare presents, such as Antony’s heart having ‘burst/ the buckles on his breast’, and the simile that describes Antony’s eyes having ‘glowed like plated Mars’, add to the play’s larger-than-life effect, in which emotions and actions are high and experienced on a grand scale.

In Act One-scene three, Shakespeare presents us with an example of a fanciful, far-fetched, bizarre expression, conceit, when Cleopatra reminds Antony of the intensity of their love “eternity was in our lips and eyes, bliss in our brows’ bent; none our parts so poor but was a race of heaven”. This is an example of how Shakespeare presents Antony’s and Cleopatra’s relationship through language. Cleopatra’s words ‘eternity, bliss’ and ‘a race of heaven’ demonstrate her love and passion for Antony, which is how Shakespeare exposes this to the readers.

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In Act One-scene five Cleopatra is seen to be in a lazy, sluggish mood, wishing to sleep away the period of time that Antony is away, and asks Charmian to give her poison to relieve her of her sorrows, “give me to drink mandragora”. This is a way in which Shakespeare presents the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra is asking to drink poison while Antony is absent which reveals Cleopatra’s love for Antony, because Cleopatra would rather drink poison than be apart from Antony. This reveals Cleopatra’s faithfulness in their relationship, which Shakespeare presents through her words of ...

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