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Examine the Strengths and Weak Points of Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship and the significance love has on important occasions in the play. Antony and Cleopatra’s strengths in love change tremendously. Their behaviours towards each other create a chain reaction in the formation of occasions within the play. It is for these reasons, which determine the direction of the narrative. Antony behaviour is demonstrative of extreme strengths in his love toward Cleopatra, as he is prepared to disregard all his responsibilities in Rome to remain in Egypt with her.
His duties in Rome are very essential to stabilise the set of three however, he still finds love more important. We see this when a messenger concerns call Antony back to Rome, his reply is: “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the broad arch/ of the varied empire fall! Here is my space”(I. 1. 33)1 This shows his commitment to their love and reveals the audience he has a sense of enjoys worth.
Antony utilizes embellishment in his reply as he suggests that the river that flows through Rome will disappear or fall apart and the bridge will collapse, prior to he will return, ‘large arch’ likewise emphasizes the strength of the bridge, this may show that Rome’s might is so strong it does not require Antony. This usage of language highlights how unlikely it is that Antony will leave Cleopatra. It reveals he is prepared to see Rome, in a sense, be demolished and he will still not care for his responsibilities.
We see here that Antony thinks love to be a much nobler calling, than his obligations in Rome.
While the fans are in a love-debate we see that it is Cleopatra who is setting the rate of knots by her sarcasm and taunts when she says: “you must not stay here longer. Your dismission/ Is originated from Caesar. For that reason hear it, Antony. “(I. 1. 26/7)2 leads Antony to neglect his life in Rome to show his love for her. It is obvious to us, as it was to Cleopatra and Antony, if he returned to Rome he would be proving her words right therefore had no choice however to remain with her, if he desired to show his love.
We know that Cleopatra wants nothing of the sort for Antony to leave but the more she presses upon Antony, the less he feels the need to full fill his duties in Rome. Cleopatra used reverse psychology to keep a grip on their love. Antony also expresses his great love for Cleopatra through his speech “such a mutual pair / And such a twain can do’t, in which I bind, / On pain of punishment, the world to weet / We stand up peerless. “(I. 1. 37/40)
Antony is expressing all that matters is the two of them, in-love, that the moral judgement of other people does not matter and they have the whole world in their hands, therefore Rome considered a loss. Cleopatra too shows tremendous strengths in love as she shows true signs of missing Antony while he is away. “O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony! “(I. 5. 21)4 from this Cleopatra is showing the magnitude and importance of Antony’s splendour.
Cleopatra describes here that the horse should be flattered to be supporting such a wonderful man, although this is slightly humorous, as the horse would not feel any honour, we still sense the extreme fidelity Cleopatra has toward Antony. means nothing in comparison to them. We can see here how important Cleopatra is to him and just how much he is willing to give up for her. However it is not only that he is giving up his life for her but that he really truly believes she is more important, therefore the phrase ‘giving up’ does not mean anything to him as he believes Rome is not important enough to be
Cleopatra’s behaviour is effusive by showing how much she misses him as she talks about him constantly. “Where think’st thou he is now? Stands he, or sits he? / or does he walk? “(I. 5. 19/20)5 We see here Cleopatra is continuously thinking of Antony. We imagine her to be entranced by her love for him, as she is asking questions when she does not require an answer. This gives us the image of her staring into amidst, thinking of all the different things Antony is doing. By going through his different positions ‘stands’ or ‘sits’ or ‘walks’ we see she is thinking about him in great detail and longs for him to be with her.
All of this love and devotion led to Lepidus and Caesar resenting the time the once noble Antony spent in Egypt, and despised his neglect of duty. Antony’s alliance with the two leaders had been weakened due to love. When faced with opposition from Caesar, Cleopatra’s enticing behaviour comes into play again. And we see Antony’s blindness play himself into a destroying event. Once the suggestion comes about that they will fight Antony at sea, Antony’s reason for doing so is “For that he dares us to’t. “(III. 7. 29)6 This lacks a great deal of strategy and shows his childlike features to stand strong against a dare.
As we hear from Enobarbus: “you therein throw away / The absolute soldiership you have by land,”(III. 7. 41/2)7 from this Enobarbus is suggesting Antony has greater chance winning battle on land, as there is where his skills lye. It therefore seems completely illogical to fight by sea. The reader believes this because we know that Enobarbus is not fooled by love, therefore we have more reason to trust his judgement. This shows how Shakespeare uses love to move the readers trust to different characters. This raises the suspicion that perhaps Antony is showing off, as such, to Cleopatra.
He may not want to back down to a dare from fear of losing bravery. Again love influences Antony’s decisions, carrying him into jeopardy. We could accept Antony showing off to Cleopatra however it seems strange that Cleopatra supports Antony fighting at sea: “By sea; what else? “(III. 7. 28)8 Cleopatra is testing Antony on his love for her yet again. Cleopatra knows it is best for Antony to fight on land but is determined to make him do what she wants and not the wisest thing. Cleopatra is toying with Antony as she did in the first scene. She is enjoying her power over Antony and increasing her ego tremendously.
Ultimately Antony is saying he would die for her. Antony refers to Cleopatra at the end of this deciding scene as a: “Thetis! “(III. 7. 60)9, this is a goddess of the sea. We see here that Antony has full faith and trust in Cleopatra and her ships. Up until act III scene 10 Cleopatra is seen as a very strong and brave character. The reader is aware she is slightly conniving and manipulative however this adds to her charm of character. When Enobarbus says: “With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder. “(III. 10. 3/4)10 Our opinion of Cleopatra drops a enormously.
We know it was her influence which put Antony in battle at sea. Cleopatra knew this too, so the least she could have done was see him through it. Her cowardice creates great anger toward her, not only from Antony and the soldiers but from the reader, again Shakespeare is giving a personal interaction by building our secret desire for Cleopatra to highs and then dropping her grandeur with no warning. Scarus shows the most realistic and unpretentious view of the situation by suggesting: “we have kissed away / Kingdoms”(III. 10. 7/8)11 the use of metaphor here creates humorous imagery.
Love lead to the reprehensible loss of the empire. Just as Antony kisses Cleopatra, he kissed away his victory. It gives enigmas to the reader as the battle was evenly balanced or could be argued in Antony’s favour and yet Cleopatra fled for no evident reason. This completely defies the laws of love and shows Cleopatra as a paradox in contrast to Act I scene 5. Her actions were not at all those of loyalty and devotion like Antony’s in Act I scene1and it shows the complete imbalance of love. The audience now dislike Cleopatra and see her as an iniquity in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’.
Also this scene confronts the title ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ as this scene is Antony on his own without Cleopatra by his side. Again we see love from Antony toward Cleopatra. Although it was foolish that he was ‘Leaving the fight in height’ ‘and ‘flies after her'(III. 10. 20)12 we still se he’s ultimate devotion to Cleopatra. ‘height’ shows how the battle was at important levels, where either side could win, it seems apparent that the battle was not lost due to, the strength of the enemy, the weakness of Antony’s army neither bad luck but simply the ‘very ignorance'(III. 10. 7) of Antony and Cleopatra.
Cleopatra’s actions were like ‘a cow in june stung by a gadfly'(III. 10. 14)14 as the speed of her turn and flight was dreadfully hasty. Antony sacrificed everything for love, his honour, power and the support of his men. Although this angered Antony the queen won him over with her inveigling skills. The third time Antony went to battle at sea, Cleopatra fled yet again.
Primary Text – Shakespeare William, Antony and Cleopatra, Emrys Jones (ed. ), London, 1977 1 William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, Emrys Jones (ed. ), London, 1977, page 60.
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