Mark Antony Essay
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In Act III Scene 13, Antony receives the news that Cleopatra’s request has been granted, and his ignored. He sends an ambassador to propose a duel between himself and Caesar. Then Caesar’s ambassador comes in, and as he is kissing Cleopatra’s hand, Antony walks in. He orders for the ambassador, Thidias, to be whipped, inviting Caesar to do the same to his own ambassador. He then shouts angrily at Cleopatra; not only because of Thidias, but also because she was the reason he left the naval battle.
After Cleopatra has satisfied Antony with her responses.
He then resolves to fight Caesar, and behaves as he did in Julius Caesar, a brave warrior; Shakespeare here shows that Antony has returned to his former self, or at least a close approximation to the attitude displayed in Julius Caesar. In the opening of the scene, Shakespeare presents Antony in a very negative light; Enobarbus says that Antony’s ‘captainship’, his competence as a captain, has been ‘nicked’ by his infatuation with Cleopatra: ‘The itch of his affection should not then/ Have nicked his captainship’.
Shakespeare’s word choice makes this a particularly demeaning comment; the fact that Antony’s love for Cleopatra is reduced to an ‘itch’ here shows that Enobarbus clearly does not think very highly of Antony’s affection, as it is a very diminuting adjective. Also, it is clear that Enobarbus disapproves of Antony’s priorities, as he speaks with conviction against it; he uses a model verb to voice his opinion; ‘should not then’. This is indicative of just how strongly Enobarbus feels about Antony’s pursuit of Cleopatra.
The way that Enobarbus brings up the idea that affection ‘nicked his [Antony’s] captainship’ presents Antony as a character who is far from level-headed; to lose ‘captainship’ at such a vital time would have been unthinkable in Roman times, with honour and valour being key traits; it was seen as a sign of nobility for one, rather than retreat or be captured, to commit suicide, fall on his sword. A sword duel is the first thing Antony wishes to propose to Caesar, which presents him in a different light. On the one hand, it can be seen as a brave and noble thing to do.
However, it is unrealistic to expect Caesar to accept, and is a very foolhardy, unprofessional stance to take. Antony says he wants Caesar to answer him ‘sword against sword,/ Ourselves [themselves] alone’, which seems more of a dramatic gesture than a genuine battle tactic. Shakespeare may here have wanted to present Antony as a desperate, irrational character at this point; in context, this seems to bewhat Antony is doing, and the speed with which he resolves to offer a dual shows that he hasn’t considered it at all; it appears he wants to think and act fast just for the sake of it, rather than making precise tactical decisions.
Therefore, it becomes clear that Shakespeare is presenting Antony as a foolhardy character; although one may take the view that this promise of action is better than no action at all, this is ultimately what it amounts to anyway; Antony should know full well that Caesar, who is not a front-line soldier, would never agree to such a proposal. Enobarbus, who throughout this scene is pessimistic about Antony’s actions, is used by Shakespeare to present the negative side of Antony. This provides the audience with several opinions, allowing them to ultimately decide whether or not Antony is being completely imprudent, or merely headstrong.
When Enobarbus says ‘Caesar, the hast subdued/ His judgement too’, he is presenting Antony’s proposal as the brash, unrealistic action it really is. The word ‘subdued’ shows that Enobarbus believes that Caesar’s action have constrained Antony, and got him completely under wraps. Also, the way Shakespeare chooses the word ‘too’ shows that Enobarbus believes that Caesar already has Antony subdued politically or militarily. This negative outlook presents Antony’s political and military situation as a dire one.