Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Rome and Egypt in Antony and Cleopatra

Authors Avatar

Shaymas Hussain          Year 12 A/S Literature Shakespeare Coursework Essay               02/05/2007                                                                                                        

Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of Rome and Egypt in Antony and Cleopatra  

As the title clearly suggests, Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is based around the extraordinary relationship among two distinctive individuals, one a Roman general and the other an Egyptian queen. Along with Caesar who is also a Roman general, these entities dominate the play’s tragic storyline progression. However whilst Antony and Cleopatra centres around a provocative love affair, Shakespeare makes it evident that there is a good deal larger tensions involved, a collision course between two worlds. Antony and Cleopatra details the conflict between Rome and Egypt, it demonstrates the differences between Eastern and Western cultures, however it does not make a clear statement over which culture ultimately triumphs.

In the play the Western and Eastern cultures of the world are symbolised by those who reside in them. Caesar for example, personifies the strict and unbending duty of the West. While Cleopatra, in all her pretentious magnificence, embodies the graceful passions of the East. Caesar’s anxieties right through the play are undoubtedly imposing: he means to occupy foreign lands in order to endow them with traditions of his own. But the play opposes siding with this imposing impulse.

The Roman perceptiveness of Cleopatra and her kingdom seems very shallow. To Caesar Cleopatra is a whore with a flair for drama. Caesars narrow-mindedness allows little room for the real influence of Cleopatra’s sexuality, she can after all convince the most highlighted of generals to trail her into shameful retreat. Likewise, it permits little room for the unconquerable strength of her resolve, which she displays so vehemently at the closing stages of the play as she refuses to allow herself to be turned into an  “Egyptian puppet” for the amusement of the Romans.

Join now!

In Antony and Cleopatra, West and East collide, but it does not in spite of Caesar’s conquest over the land of Egypt, defeat it. Cleopatra’s suicide implies that a touch of the East’s character, the freedoms and fervour that are not signified in the play’s notion of the West, cannot be listed by Caesar’s victory. The play proposes that the East will survive on as a perceptible and invincible counterpart to the West, bound as inseparably and everlastingly as Antony and Cleopatra are in their mausoleum.

As the play develops, Antony continues to occupy contradictory characteristics that play ...

This is a preview of the whole essay