How Shakespeare presents the character of Cleopatra in" Anthony and Cleopatra" The play of "Anthony and Cleopatra" is that of one many tragedies

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How Shakespeare presents the character of Cleopatra in” Anthony and Cleopatra”

The play of “Anthony and Cleopatra” is that of one many tragedies, of which William Shakespeare famously wrote and crafted. In “Anthony and Cleopatra” Shakespeare explores the themes of love, politics and betrayal. Central to the play are dominant male figures such as Mark Anthony and the mighty Caesar Octavius. The Play centres mostly on Mark Anthony’s divided love for Rome and for Cleopatra. Ironically enough, it is Cleopatra; the only dominant female in the play that maintains all power and control. Especially over Mark Anthony with Caesar Octavius at times seeming subjectable to her charms. This strange imbalance of power between Masculine brute power and Subtle feminine wiliness seems therefore somewhat of a strange anomaly in the chauvinistic society in which the play is set. In this essay I shall attempt to explore this fascinating power that Cleopatra seems to possess, how she harnesses it and how it perhaps contributes to her death.

First and lasting impressions of Cleopatra are mainly centered around her extraordinary beauty. This is most notably displayed in Enobarbus’s speech (Act 2, scene 2). The trance - like beauty of the scene seems to enhance the queen’s superiority, as she is the epicentre of all attention. Enobarbus’s speech is riddled with examples of hyperbole, exaggeration and paradoxes. Shakespeare uses these literary tools to present Cleopatra’s beauty in an unearthly manner. The whole scene has a very seductive and subtly erotic effect and the description is very sensually based.

Cleopatra is imagined as “ o’erpicturing that Venus where we see/ the fancy outwork nature.”2.2/207-208 As mentioned in Enobarbus’s speech. There is nature, in the sense of naturally beautiful women we know and acknowledge in the real world and everyday life. Then there is art, through which the imagination of the artist is able to iron out the “imperfections” of nature. The beauty of the resulting picture, would give us for example a classic Venus. What Enobarbus goes on to say is that then there is Cleopatra, who transcends even the classic Venus of the artist’s imagination. Her beauty is thereby made to seem almost supernatural. This might be otherwise an unconvincing exaggeration if we had not already been prepared for something like this in the rich description that had gone before.

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Then we see that Anthony is left alone as everyone goes to see Cleopatra. This is extravagant enough, but Shakespeare makes us imagine the impossible, that the very air would have gone to gaze upon her if it could have done so without creating a “vacancy in nature”2.2/222 an example of personification. This is another exaggeration that verges on the ridiculous but is not because it grows naturally from the whole interpretation of the almost supernatural beauty of Cleopatra. Like the wind and the water, the element of air pays homage to the phenomenal beauty of the scene in ...

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