Explore the presentation and effects of love in Antony and Cleopatra.

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Explore the presentation and effects of love in Antony and Cleopatra


Antony and Cleopatra is Shakespeare’s peculiarly fluid and intimate historical retelling of the love tale of the Roman soldier, Mark Antony, and the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. The male protagonist, Antony, is a noble Roman soldier. That being so Shakespeare introduces him as having many cultural personality traits which in this play are affected, alongside with his judgement, by the love he feels for Cleopatra.  

        From the outset of the play, the audience can see that Antony’s judgment has been affected by love. This can be observed from the people in Antony’s company. While it is obvious they regard him as a powerful figure they also disapprove of his relationship with Cleopatra. The audience can see this from Philo’s description of Antony’s “dotage” that “O’erflows the measure” (1, 1, 2). This shows that his obsession with Cleopatra surpasses a sensible level. Philo says that Antony’s heart has “become the bellows and the fan/ To cool a gypsy’s lust”. (1, 1, 7-10) This shows that some of his former greatness has gone as he has been degraded to serving, what others see as a “gypsy”. In addition to this the word “gypsy” also reinforces the Romans disapproval of their relationship as “gypsy” would give the audience connotations of a promiscuous woman. However moments before this Antony is described to have “goodly eyes” (1, 1, 2) which “glowed like plated Mars” (1, 1, 4). Philo’s reference to “Mars” the powerful Roman God of war, presents Antony as a powerful, invulnerable God-like being. However this is a demonstration of hyperbole as the reader knows that Antony, no matter how magnificent, is still a fragile and breakable mortal.  This use of hyperbole adds humor to the play as the reader identifies the exaggeration and knows that Antony is mortal. This description enables us to see the vivid change in Antony’s judgement.

        As the play progresses the audience can further observe the deterioration of Antony’s greatness mainly because of awful decisions made by his affected judgement. This mainly happens because he struggles with the choice of whether to devote himself to a life of work, or a life of love. As a powerful Roman military leader and one of the three Roman rulers Antony should have extremely strong work ethics and ideologies, which in turn means any decisions he makes should favour work and responsibility. However this is not the case and his judgement is often affected by his feeling for Cleopatra. In turn this dramatically affects his actions, which contradicts with his ethics of work and responsibility: “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch of the ranged empire fall” (1, 1, 33-4). Antony expresses his love for Cleopatra by saying he does not care if the Roman Empire falls. This shows the height of Antony’s love for her and the great deal that she has affected his judgement. This is more so as although this comment rejects Rome it also shows its greatness. As Antony is one of three rulers of Rome it should be his primary concern to uphold the Roman Empire rather than dismissing it for love.  In addition to this Antony describes the empire as having a “wide arch” this metaphor illustrates to the audience that he believes that the Roman Empire is strong and will remain strong without him. Thus he can have a more pleasurable and relaxed lifetime. This quotation is also suggestive of Antony’s highly regarded position in the triumvirate. This is reveled due to Shakespeare’s use of the literary technique of iambic pentameter. As it is very complex to write in it enhances the importance of his speech, this is done primarily because he is stating his passion for Cleopatra which he believes is more important than anything else.

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        During Act 3 Antony catches Thidias kissing Cleopatra’s hand. His jealousy enrages him and he commands his men to “Take hence this Jack and whip him” (3, 13, 94). This is less noble as he displays irrational behavior and angry which are seen as Egyptian traits rather than Roman cultural traits, as Romans are precise, measurable and rational. His treatment of Thidias can be seen as an Egyptian trait mainly because it recalls Cleopatra’s similar treatment to the messenger in Act 2 scene 5 as she also says: “Thou shall be whipped” (2, 5, 65). This again shows irrationality due ...

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