Betrayal in Antony and Cleopatra

Categories: Antony and Cleopatra

Betrayal in the play ultimately causes the downfall of many main characters; weather it be betrayal of buddies or of their initial suitables and morals. If we take the example of Enobarbus' case, his decline from the stringent Roman ethics into the looser morals that symbolise more Egyptian perfects, leads him to betray his general and buddy, Antony. Enobarbus then goes onto to die of the regret and broken heartedness he experiences as a result of his treachery towards Antony and his own ethical compass.

It is however arguable that Enobarbus traitorous nature is just a result and reflection of Antony's own collapsing roman beliefs. If we take the exchange in between Cleopatra and Enobarbus in Act 3, scene 12 lines 2- 12 we can see that Enobarbus lays absolutely none of the blame on Cleopatra's shoulders however rather tears the Antony to shreds, at one point saying" The itch of his love must not then have nicked his captainship, at such a point when half to half the world opposed, he being the mered question".

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In these lines Enobarbus states that Antony must not have let his desire (an Egyptian quality) damage his ability as a general and his task to his men, at such an exceptionally crucial point in the fight, particularly when the stakes were so high and he was such an essential part in the result. Shakespeare uses the word love, which can be read to mean lust. Desire is a trait that Shakespeare lists as an Egyptian quality, and it is essential to note his option in diction; to stress that the action was not disciplined and Roman however a betrayal of Antony's Roman nature.

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There is no mention of the love Antony has for Cleopatra. He likewise allows us to see Enobarbus's view that absolutely nothing about this was justifiable or best, and that there were no greater intentions moving Antony, rather he was pressed into actions by his baser and more primitive emotions such as cowardice and desire stating Antony's reasons, whatever they might have been, were trivial and unacceptable.

The hyperbole in line 9 ‘...when half to half the world opposed…’ also stresses this point because it creates a sense of how indubitably important this battle was. This fight was a touchstone of legend; one obviously still remembered in Shakespeare’s time, and still in ours; a war between two of the greatest empires the world has seen to date, the stakes of which were incredible amounts of power, influence, land, and money – more than enough motive to kill for. And yet the ‘…mered question…’ the person who this whole war was based on; who these men were fighting this battle for – men without experience or training, against the greatest militant empire of the ancient world – this man they were fighting for ran away. Enobarbus’ dialogue describes how utterly base and treacherous Antony’s actions have been in terms of the values of the Roman Empire.

This supports the argument that Antony’s betrayal of his Roman ideals lead to Enobarbus also betraying his Roman nature by defecting to Caesar. These betrayals lead to both their deaths, though if they had stuck to the Roman tenets of societal structure they would not have gone against their own nature; actions such as retreating from the sea battle (Antony) or defecting (Enobarbus), and the play could have had a very different ending. It is these faults of betrayal that set the characters up for their downfalls, echoing Antony’s belief in the doctrine of Ate, which he expresses by saying, ‘when we in our viciousness grow hard… the wise gods seel our eyes’ (Act 3, Scene 13, 114-18).

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Betrayal in Antony and Cleopatra. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from

Betrayal in Antony and Cleopatra
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