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 out the struggle between motive and feeling. In one instance, he is the rancorous war hero whom Caesar eulogizes and fears. Almost immediately after that, he surrenders his military designation by foolishly allowing Cleopatra to establish his course of action. As his Roman friends, even the faithful Enobarbus desert him, Antony feels that he has, without a doubt, lost himself in old age, and he resolves to salvage his dignified individuality by killing his self. Originally, this act may emerge to be a victory of motive over fervour, of Western consciousness over Eastern ones, but the play is not as straightforward as that. Even though Antony departs this life deeming himself a man of reverence, authority and reason, our perception of him is not quite as clear-cut. For us to come to terms with Antony’s personality, we have to analyze the parts of his identity that he disregards. In the end he is a man controlled by fervour as much as by motive. Similarly, the play proposes to us an overall view in which one feeling cannot effortlessly govern another. Motive can never fully triumph over fervour, nor can fervour completely disengage motive.
"I am dying, Egypt, dying."
Antony quotes these words, as he lies dying in the arms of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Antony has lost the battle in which he sided with Egypt against his own nation Rome and follows Cleopatra into retreat. Cleopatra learns that Antony believes she has betrayed him and harbours intentions to kill her, she therefore sends false word to Antony that she, Cleopatra has taken her own life. Antony is in anguish and requests his comrade Eros to kill him. Eros decides to kill himself instead and Antony falls on to the end of his own sword. Antony is on the brink of death and so is brought to Cleopatra’s memorial where he utters these words and takes his last breath of air in her arms. Antony's failure to depart this life right away by being stabbed by his own sword, in fine Roman manner, echo’s the mark of the East upon him and up till now his magnificence of spirit is viewed plainly in this painful scene of his demise. He is at last able to unite the Roman and the Eastern divide of his character, by which he struggled right through the play.
In his demise Antony goes back to his character as a true, grand, dignified Roman, becoming
“A Roman by a Roman…… Valiantly vanquished”
While Cleopatra is determined to
“Bury him, and then what’s brave, what’s noble……… Let’s do it after the high Roman fashion”
Cleopatra’s words propose that honour is a distinct Roman attribute, but Cleopatra’s demise, which is her way of guaranteeing that she remains her truest self is clearly against Rome. In Antony and Cleopatra, honour seems less a role of Western or Eastern culture than of the characters strength of mind to label themselves on their own conditions. Both Antony and Cleopatra secure honourable deaths by rejecting to negotiate their identities.
"Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me."
Cleopatra quotes this, as she is about to join her lover Antony in death. When Caesar hears that Antony is dead, he arranges for Cleopatra's surrender, promising her that she will be treated with respect. Cleopatra learns, that she is to be paraded by Caesar throughout the streets of Rome as a war prize, derided and dishonoured. Instead she chooses to die with dignity, wearing her robe and crown, rather than undergo this disgrace. She places an asp next to her breast and is poisoned by the asp’s bite. Caesar endows a noble entombment for both Antony and Cleopatra.
Cleopatra and Octavia symbolize competing empires. Nobody can question Cleopatra’s beauty and her seductive powers. Enobarbus, who hates Cleopatra’s control over Antony, recognizes the indisputable potency of her powers. Enobarbus’s description of Cleopatra’s splendour and charisma in Act Two, scene two of the play paints the clearest picture of it. Cleopatra’s physical appearance gives her a greater power than that of plainer Octavia. A solitary tear from Cleopatra can turn Antony’s rage into obsequious affection, however nothing Octavia does can bring Antony back from Egypt. Octavia’s arrival in Rome, which lacks the splendour of people who are so high up in the hierarchy and the fact that nobody even greets her, symbolizes her invisibility to her husband. Cleopatra’s messenger describes her as mediocre; her character when compared to Cleopatra’s is also unimpressive. Octavia also seems rather passionless, when Antony leaves her; it brings about only slight tears. This therefore symbolizes the women of Rome to be docile and easily manipulated, this is in total contrast to Egypt where the women are seen to be full of passion, desire and possess equal rights to men.
“Take but good note, and you shall see in him. The triple pillar of the world transform'd Into a strumpet's fool.”
This is one of the play’s opening speeches. Philo tells his companions to view that Antony, one of three Rome's rulers, has been transformed into a "fool” who is following Cleopatra around blindly.
He says that Antony one of the most feared man in all of Rome has been sidetracked by
“A gipsy’s lust”
Caesar concurs with Philo as he talks about Antony abandoning his
“kingdom for a mirth”
Romans, who think themselves to be superior to other due to their logic of thought and reason, as well as their dominating army, find Egypt to be alienating, where emotions control rational thinking, fervour rules and disrupts intelligence and most of all where its pleasure before business. Therefore Egypt is a threat to the Roman way of life, even Antony who is probably one of the most understanding person of the Egyptian culture realises this, he thinks the Egyptian culture will destroy his Roman identity.
“These strong Egyptian fetters I must break… Or lose myself in dotage”
To conclude this essay it can be said that Shakespeare presents Egypt more intricately than that of the Roman people’s view on it, just as he does the same with Rome. Although Shakespeare uses characters to symbolize their own homelands respectively, the actual presentation of Rome and Egypt is much more intricate. Not only is Rome and Egypt presented through what the character’s say, it is also expressed by the feelings and actions of those characters.