Act one scene one in structure and imagery is a microcosm of the play. Examine this scene in detail assessing what clues there are about the future. Act one scene one of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ is a microcosm of the whole play, it miniaturises the fundamental themes from the play and sets the atmosphere and tone for the rest of the play. It gives a general idea of the characters personalities, their relationship with each other and possible future plots.
The first scene is opened by Philo, a fellow Roman soldier and colleague of Antony’s, the fact that he begins the whole play criticising Cleopatra and her country creates a bias view of her before she has even entered the scene.
This is true of the whole play and even the scenes set in Egypt are greatly influenced by Roman perspective, as is the way Cleopatra is portrayed to the audience casting aspersions about the relationship which is being represented as doomed from the start.
Antony’s dilemma is constantly nagging in the back of his mind and he is continually reminded of his predicament by the invariable intrusion from his roman contemporaries, this is evident in this first scene and right the way through the play. The language used by Philo describes Rome and Egypt very contrastingly again generating a negative reflection of Egypt. “And is become the bellows and the fan To cool a gipsy’s lust. ” This quotation forms a powerful visual image of Cleopatra being pampered and waited on, indulging in her luxurious life style.
This automatically creates an opinion of Cleopatra, which sticks with the audience whenever she is described. Antony however is portrayed in a masculine, optimistic manner including descriptions of his Godly powers and ability to command, “Those his goodly eyes that o’er the files and musters of the war have glowed like plated Mars. ” again the differing cultures interfering in their relationship. In Philo’s opening speech about Antony and recent events in Rome and Egypt concentrating on the resentment felt toward Antony from the Roman people. He has gone from being an admired public figure to a derided, laughable one.
“I am full sorry that he approves the common liar who thus speaks of him at Rome. ” “Have glowed like plated Mars, now bend, now turn the office and devotion of their view upon a tawny front. ” Here we see comparisons of both Antony and Cleopatra, although still mocking Antony, Philo compares Antony to Mars – the God of war which is once what people compared Antony too, however under the influence of love he has been transformed into “a strumpets fool. ” This is a consistently repeated image and exposes Rome’s view on Antony’s actions and newfound love, they feel Antony has abandoned his country and his responsibilities.
Although at the moment there are only rumours about Antony’s position, when closing the scene Demetrius (another of Antony’s fellow soldiers) states that he know sees the rumours were true, we assume this message will be returned to Rome and received in an unfavourable manner. Philo likens Cleopatra to a gypsy in this scene, yet further on in the play another Roman describes her gloriously she is compared to Venus – the God of love, the two Godly comparisons illuminate the couples magnitude and how they are seen in the publics eye.
Comparing them both to Gods is an immense honour and the true significance of their visual empowerment is demonstrated in these startling descriptions and shows just how an opinion can change due to image. These opening and closing statements from Philo and Demetrius set the scene for the rest of the play and start a continuous theme which features throughout and gives an indication of what will happen in the rest of the play and shows very early on the foundations of the problems in Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship.
Most of the troubles between them stem from their political responsibilities but another factor is their differing personalities, Antony is a true Roman and represents sense and rationale where as Cleopatra, a true Egyptian, represents impulsiveness and passion Egypt and Rome are represented by the qualities embedded in their leaders. Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, reveals her dramatised features throughout the play and they are prominent in this first scene. Although set in Egypt, Rome is very much at the centre of conversation, already we see the conflict between Antony’s duty to his country and his duty to his heart.
His love, or rather infatuation with Cleopatra is apparent in the opening scene and the language and imagery exposed in this scene sets the disposition of the rest of the play. Antony is torn between his obligation to Rome and Caesar and his feelings for Cleopatra, their relationship has constant obstacles in its way mainstreaming from both parties public roles and the opposition of their home countries. Their conversation is interrupted by a Roman messenger separating the couple’s declaration of love, this is connoting the everlasting intrusion cast over the pair usually brought caused by their political roles to the world.
Antony, swayed by Cleopatra, disregarded the message which for a moment detached him from his love and brought him back in to current events by doing this he widened the gap separating him from his Roman people. He does this to prove to her that she is his main concern and he will ignore everything else while he is with her, this is an example of his hyperbolic approach to Cleopatra and his dramatised passion. His attitude continues in this way and ultimately it is this that erodes away at Antony’s reputation in Rome, because in the end he chose love over power.
Antony is torn between his obligation to Rome and Caesar and his feelings for Cleopatra, their relationship has constant obstacles in its way mainstreaming from both parties public roles and the opposition of their home countries. Philo suggests that Cleopatra is manipulating Antony with her beauty and he has become a slave of love for her when he should be focusing on what ought to be his top priority – Rome and its army, “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch if the ranged empire fall! Here is my space! ”
The key themes of the entire play are featured in act one scene one; the status of both Antony and Cleopatra, their relationship and how it is very much publicised and interfered in, the conflicting characteristics of Egypt and Rome and the way that both countries and cultures differ and the most significant which is Antony’s choice between his love and his invasive fellow Romans. By minimizing the central message of the play a microcosm is created within this scene presenting the future format of the narrative and plot.
The beginning speech by Philo has a critical yet vibrant manner about it and the subject he is preaching about, he is direct and forceful in his tone contradictory to that of Antony and Cleopatra’s in that scene. The language used during the couple’s liaison is flowing and passionate signifying their love for one another and the state of fantasy and adoration, which overcomes them when re-united. “Fie wrangling, Whom everything becomes – to chide, to laugh, to weep; whose every passion fully strives to make itself, in thee, fair and admired.
” Cleopatra is always ardent when speaking it is part of her seductive manner, but the difference we see in Antony from when he is talking to Romans is poles apart to when he talks to Cleopatra from this we can see just what an effect she has upon the once great leader. In parts of the play we see Antony at his greatest, strong, powerful, battle worthy and respected but as soon as he glimpses Cleopatra it is as if he is being melted by her scorching control over him and he becomes at her beckon call.
This is the first of many passionate, fiery banters exchanges between the Queen and her lover, which permeates their time together. We learn a great deal about Cleopatra’s persona in this scene, considering her first descriptions from Philo were not complimentary she has given us supporting evidence that his claims were accurate, to a degree, by showing signs of envy and immaturity towards Antony.
“Fulvia perchance is angry, or who knows If the scarce bearded Caesar have not sent his powerful mandate to you: Do this or this” within this statement Cleopatra has mocked Antony, insulted Caesar and discounted Antony’s previous wife Fulvia, this is just one example of her incessant jealousy and need to be centre of attention. Her need to be attended too is what actually kills Antony, as her attention-seeking charade of pretending to be dead so Antony would forgive her is what drove him to suicide. Her jealousy and attention seeking is clear in act one scene one and a central element of her personality and the actual narrative of the play.