Read the following extract from Act 1 scene 2. In what ways does this passage show the conflict of Rome and Egypt?

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AS English Literature – Section A – ‘Read the following extract from Act 1 scene 2. In what ways does this passage show the conflict of Rome and Egypt?’ –

Throughout Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra, location plays an important role in the development of the play. It is one of few plays to have such a frequent interchange between locations and at the heart of this are the two contrasting worlds of Egypt and Rome. The two countries seem to differ completely to each other and this is reflected by the different attitudes of their respective people. Act 1 scene 2 is a pivotal scene in the play as the ladies-in-waiting of Cleopatra’s court have their fortunes told by a soothsayer, this turns out to foreshadow the later events of the play.

The passage is one of the most accurate at showing the substantial differences between the people and life of Rome and Egypt. It begins with the soothsayer telling the fortune of Charmian and Iras however, the two joke about the predictions and it is in this part that Shakespeare instils the passage full of sexual innuendo between the women to show the nature of the Egyptian women. Shakespeare’s famous wit with wordplay is seen clearly as Charmian hints at the sexual meaning behind the word ‘inch’ while Iras clearly confirms both their intentions with the statement that were she to have an extra inch it would ‘Not [go] in my husband’s nose’. Charmian acknowledges and in some way gloats in their ‘worser thoughts’. Charmian follows to get her own back on Alexas who questioned her virtue previous to the passage and both her and Iras seem to take great joy in doing so.

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The conflict in the two societies is amplified by the Court’s responses to Cleopatra’s entrance and exit. Enorbarbus seems to make a subtle pun as he mistakes Cleopatra for Antony, this seems to be done on purpose by him to show how both have almost merged into one another. Charmian’s short and direct response is also one of less respect as he responds ‘Not he. The queen.’ To contrast this with the response to Antony’s entrance where Alexas pays his respects to his leader, ‘My lord approaches’ demonstrates the professionalism in the Roman ranks which contrasts greatly with the ...

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The effective opening and concluding paragraphs show that the writer understands how the play sets up a conflict between Egypt and Rome, but this notion of conflict is never fully explored. Any essay which focuses on a particular extract or passage requires close textual analysis of language and stagecraft and there is some, but not enough of this here. The essay should also include reflection on how the themes apparent in extract are developed in the play as a whole. The essay also illustrates the dangers of failing to proof-read work when it has been completed.