What do you find interesting about the way Shakespeare presents the character of either Antony or Cleopatra to an audience?
I shall be focussing on the character of Cleopatra, because I think that out of the two major characters in the play, she is the most interesting because of the way Shakespeare portrays her. The character of Cleopatra is very unpredictable throughout the play. We see a variety of perspectives from which we see Cleopatra; this illustrates the varying understanding of her as a decadent foreign woman and a noble ruler. This shows her unique personalities in every situation that she is faced with. The obvious quality she has is that she is seen to be very over dramatic, particularly over her love for Antony.
In the opening scene we observe that Cleopatra does seem to be shown the dominating one in her and Anthony’s relationship as ‘if it be love indeed, tell me how much’. This shows us that Cleopatra enjoys being constantly reminded of Antony’s love for her, this could also mean that she is insecure of Antony’s feelings for her and she needs to be told for her reassurance. Cleopatra’s own words show her deception as she even pretends or seem to that she is at the mercy of words, to show that she does not mean exactly what she says. ‘Where’s Fulvia’s process? Caesar’s I would say! Both!’ Here Cleopatra is deliberately being sarcastic towards the orders of Antony. Humour is shown in the way that Cleopatra questions Antony’s every move, because she asks, ‘Why did he marry Fulvia, and not love her?’ Cleopatra’s insecurity is shown here because she feels that because Antony is married to Fulvia yet he is with her. She questions why he does not love his own wife. She feels that Antony does not love her because he does not even seem to love his own wife then how can she even think that she is loved by such a man who has no feelings for his wife. Cleopatra is also shown to be very manipulative throughout the play as she manipulates Antony into neglecting his public duty, ‘Is Caesar’s homager; else thy cheek pays shame when shrill-tongued Fulvia scolds.’ To get her own way Cleopatra uses her tactics to make Antony stay in Egypt with her. She is also seen to be manipulating because she always wants to know what state of mind Antony is in when he is not with her. ‘If you find him sad, say I am dancing, if you find him in mirth, report that I am sudden sick.’ Here Cleopatra is shown to be manipulating because in order to get Antony back to Egypt she lies to her own advantage. She knows exactly how to keep Antony, ‘in each thing give him way. Cross him nothing.’ This also implies that she is very controlling.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Shakespeare portrays her as to be very clever with her words, in trying her very best to get her own way because she reveals herself to be a actress of great rage who fakes her illness, ‘I am sick an sullen.’ She is also very commendable in turning Antony’s word against him, ‘Oh most false love! Where be the sacred vials thou shouldst fill with sorrowful water? Now I see, I see in Fulvia’s death how mine received shall be.’ Here Antony is put in a situation where he cannot win with Cleopatra no matter what he says, because everything he does say, she has a way of twisting it round, while making false accusations to her own advantage.
The most compelling aspect to Cleopatra’s character is the way she demonstrates her love for Antony. Her love for him is not shown to be every genuine, but as the play progresses we see that when she hears the news of Antony’s marriage to Octavia, ‘The most infectious pestilence upon thee!’ she strikes the messenger because he was the bearer of bad news. This exposes the loss of control by the way she treats the messenger and her tempestuous nature and this also reveals to us the true depth for her feelings towards Antony.
Cleopatra is also shown to be a person who only likes to hear what she want to hear. When she sends the messenger to find out about Octavia and he comes back to report to her, she questions him on several things about her, ‘Didst hear the speak? Is she shrill-tongued or low?’ ‘Madam, I heard her speak, she is low-voiced.’ When she hears this she is very pleased because she thinks that Antony ‘cannot like her long.’ She does this to satisfy herself and to make her feel better about herself because at that very moment she is very hurt and upset knowing that Antony has married Ocatvia.
We also see How Cleopatra has Antony just where she wants him because whatever she seems to say, Anony seems to agree with her even if he knows deep down that her decision may be wrong and may cost him his whole future, he is still prepared to go through with it because he loves Cleopatra so dearly. ‘By sea, what else?’ Cleopatra decides to fight with Caesar via sea. Even though Antony knows that his ‘ships are not well manned,’ he still decides to fight by ‘sea’. He is blinded by Cleopatra’s love so much that he fails to even listen to the advice Enorbarbus gives him. ‘In Caesar’s fleet, are those that often have ‘gainst Pompey fought; shall fall you for refusing him at sea, being prepared for land.’ Antony does not take any notice of what Enobarbus says to him because he thinks that decision that Cleopatra has made is the right one.
Cleopatra is displayed to be a woman who shows great emotion over her actions. ‘O my lord, my lord forgive my fearful sails! I little thought you would have followed.’ This illustrates to us that Cleopatra is asking for genuine forgiveness. We see Cleopatra at her most emotionalised and realistic state of mind. ‘O my pardon’ this devotes her sincerity.
Cleopatra is also shown to be very scheming because when Caesar send a messenger, she treats him differently because he is from Caesar. ‘Most kind messenger, says to great Caesar this; in this deputation I kiss hi conquering hand. Tell him I am prompt to lay my crown at his feet, and they’re to kneel, till from his all-obeying breath I hear the doom of Egypt.’ In her speech to the messenger we are lead to the impression to believe that she has betrayed Antony, but this is all part of her plan against Caesar. This shows how intelligent she is because if the way she has all her tactics worked out.
There is also complexity shown in Cleopatra’s character as she does the most absurd things to make Antony pay attention to her. ‘Go tell him I have slain myself, say that the last I spoke was ‘Antony’.’ Here she is telling Mardian to go to Antony and tell him false news of her death. Her action her is done without any thinking on her behalf, as she does not think about what the consequences may be and what effect the news will have on Antony. As the audience, we see that Cleopatra fails to recognise how much love Antony has for her.
The part of her character that I find most appealing is how Cleopatra dies for her lover, Antony. This action proves how much she had for him, as she could not go on living without Antony after his death.
Overall, analysing Cleopatra’s character, she behaves childishly and is very over dramatic, nevertheless her charisma and strength makes her Shakespeare’s most strongest, inspiring female characters.