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“Romeo And Juliet” And “Antony And Cleopatra” Essay

These two Shakespearian plays are very similar in setting and plot. There seems to be a similar balance of corresponding characters who are fairly alike in each play, for examples Antony and Romeo, Cleopatra and Juliet, Enobarbus and Mercutio etc, although the time and geographical setting is different. In both plays the two main characters experience love and a relationship in terms of passion that is pushed and pulled to all extremities. All the main characters’ attitude to love means ultimately that the only resolution to their problems that they find is tragedy, consisting of deaths and suicides.

One attitude towards love is that the heart is allowed to rule the head, and passion is all. This means the character allows him or herself to be carried away by love’s excitement and passion, and not consider the consequences. This is the category that most of the characters from both plays fall into; Romeo, Juliet, the nurse, Antony and Cleopatra are similar in their attitude to love.

Romeo is the character who portrays an extreme example of this category, in that he has no other concern but his passion. As soon as we are introduced to him, he is sad because he is in love with Rosaline and wants to have sex with her, but she has vowed to remain chaste.

However, when he meets Juliet at the party, she becomes his number one priority and he pursues her at all costs, even to the point of taking his own life because he thinks he has lost her. “For fear of that I still will stay with thee And never from this place of dim night Depart again. Here I will remain” (Act 5 Scene 3) Juliet also allows her heart to rule her head, for she lets herself get carried away in the excitement and joy of love, but she seems slightly more cautious and practical than Cleopatra in that she makes sure Romeo means his proclamations of love and faithfulness.

“If that thy bent of love be honourable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,” (Act2 scene 2) Similarly, Anthony is carried away by his passion and love for Cleopatra, but is slightly different in his attitude than Romeo in that he also acknowledges his political obligations and leaves Egypt to pursue them, despite her demands that he stay.*** Cleopatra also has political intents and therefore they both have other concerns than just their passion. However, their love is also politically linked. Antony is very obedient and loyal to Cleopatra, although he does not let it control his world completely, unlike in Romeo and Juliet. This is shown several times in the play. In the as early as act one scene two, he leaves Cleopatra to attend his duties in Rome.

Later, he puts his political ambitions ahead of Cleopatra in marrying Caesar’s sister Octavia in order to solidify his relationship with Caesar, however he goes back to Cleopatra and provokes Caesar in doing so. But, as in Romeo and Juliet, he loves Cleopatra so much that he sacrifices his life for her.

Cleopatra, although she is the queen, is not very responsible or respected. She has a reputation of being a “whore” and is well known for fooling about with men.*** In addition, Julius Caesar had an affair with her earlier and she gave birth to a son. Cleopatra seems to have a “no holds barred’ attitude to love whereby it is acceptable for her to behave in any way she thinks fit with her lover. For example, she tricks him into thinking that she is dead when she is not.*** Ironically, in Romeo and Juliet, Romeo thinks Juliet is dead only by accident, not by design. Juliet differs in her attitude to love from Cleopatra in that she does not believe there is a place for deceit or treachery against Romeo. Cleopatra’s loyalty is sometimes questionable. However, at the end of the play, she too gives up her life in order to defeat Caesar and be with Antony.

The differences between the couples’ attitudes may also be to do with their age; Antony and Cleopatra are a lot older than Romeo and Juliet, making them much less naïve, and they are also high-status leaders of countries which means they have political obligations to fulfil.

Another attitude towards love found in the plays is the opposite, that of head over heart.

Enobarbus, Antony’s most loyal supporter, is far more cautious in his attitude to love and leaves Antony when it appears Antony is completely finished. Similarly, Mercutio, Romeo’s right arm man, is more cynical and cautious but does not desert Romeo until his death. None of the main characters listen to their supporters who would temper their yearning for unbridled passion and that is their downfall.

Friar Laurence seems to be a mixture of these two categories. He belongs in the heart over head category because he marries Romeo and Juliet, despite failing to consult the bride and groom’s parents. This is because he gets caught up in the idea that love can heal everything, making it a fail-safe action. On the other hand, the Friar belongs in the head over heart category because he believes that this matching in holy matrimony will brings the two rivalling families together. “For this alliance may so happy prove To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.”(Act.2 scene3)

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