What is the Role Of Enobarbus In This Play?
Enobarbus being the fabricated character in the play has a large importance in the play. Enobarbus is a very high-ranking officer in Antony’s army, and acts as, in effect, his right hand man. Enobarbus is very close to Antony as he is allowed to speak freely in his presence, such as in act 1 scene 2 when Antony tells Enobarbus that Cleopatra is "cunning past man's thought". This seems to be a conversation that two friends would have if one of them was having woman troubles. Another example of close comradeship between them is how after he learns of Antony’s wife Fulvia’s death, he says "give the gods a thankful sacrifice", meaning this is a good thing for Antony. Obviously not just anybody would be able to get away with saying something like that to his leader. This also means that Antony trusts Enobarbus’s judgement although he doesn’t always listen to what he has to say.
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It seems that one of the main purposes of Enobarbus in the play is to exaggerate the lives and relationship of Antony and Cleopatra. The ‘barge speech’ in scene 2 in Act 2 is perhaps one of the most famous speeches in all Shakespeare plays and is deservedly so. This is because of its effect on the play. Up until this time in the play we can only guess at the mythic qualities that have put Antony and Cleopatra into power. In this speech we see the mythic qualities of Cleopatra. Such as “The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold” and “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety....” These two extracts from the speech serve not only to promote Cleopatra’s God-like qualities, but also Antony’s, because only a man of great stature could end up with a lady like Cleopatra. The fact that she is beautiful beyond belief just goes to show how much Antony is willing to lose, and does lose in loving her. This speech may also give a hint as to Enobarbus’s feelings towards Cleopatra, for instance he would not write all this poetry (something out of character of a Roman general) if he were not inspired to by his own feelings.
Enobarbus may also be constructed as an easy way to bring things to the play that it would otherwise lack, such as humour and levity. For instance, Enobarbus enjoys his drink as he drinks twice in the play, “Bring in the banquet quickly: wine enough Cleopatra's health to drink.” And “Mine, and most of our fortunes, tonight, shall be-drunk to bed.” This shows that he is not the regimented roman soldier he is depicted as. This may also explain why he has become so close to Antony, as he has an Egyptian way about him of liking to enjoy himself, much like Antony.
In the play Enobarbus also seems to be a truth teller in so much as what he says tends to happen, and he makes valid and correct comments about the fates of Antony and Caesar. Such as when Antony marries Octavia, how he knows it will “strangle” the alliance between Caesar and Antony. He also is critical of other characters, much like a chorus in Greek plays. Such as when he talks about Antony and Caesar as “A pair of chaps, no more”. He also sees the bad outcome of Cleopatra fighting in the first battle with Caesar; “Your present needs must puzzle Antony, take from his heart, take from his brain…”. He knows in a way that the battle will end badly if she is taking part. This also shows he can see Antony fragmenting, and how he is not whole as if something has been taken from him. After Antony loses he decides that he will follow Antony, even though his reason “sits in the wud” against him. This is a bad sign because we know that Enobarbus’s judgement is rarely wrong.
He follows his common sense when he leaves Antony, because he chooses dishonour over death. Ironically he gets both. This is because his loyalty for Antony was so deep that it broke Enobarbus to leave him. So he just out right dies.