Shakespear's Anthony and Cleopatra

Within Act 2, Scene 3, Antony encounters the Soothsayer, who was previously in Act 1, Scene 2. Within the second Act, the Soothsayer says a number of things which highlights the fate of Antony. The Soothsayer also gives expression to Antony’s thoughts and feelings. The Soothsayer gives Antony an excuse for him to return to Egypt and Cleopatra and maybe the verbalisation of Antony’s fate as described by the Soothsayer, gives Antony a god enough reason for him to return to Egypt.

The significance of this encounter with the Soothsayer is that Antony is a Roman, but to consult a Soothsayer seems to be a typically Egyptian thing to do.

This type of fortune reading is seen as nothing but nonsense by Romans and always dismissed as superstition. This becomes particularly apparent in Act 1, Scene 2, when Enobarbus shows what he thinks of the Soothsayer and fortune reading, when he says: “Mine, and most of our fortunes tonight, shall be – drunk to bed.” This shows that Enobarbus is not taking the Soothsayer seriously, and Enobarbus believes that people’s lives are not mapped out and there is no way of predicting what is going to happen.

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This is the general view of fortune reading by the Roman people, however, Antony takes a great interest in what the Soothsayer has to say and he takes the advice he receives very seriously.

Firstly, Antony asks the Soothsayer if he would rather be in Egypt, the Soothsayer replies, saying, that he would never have come from there and neither would have Antony if they didn’t have a good enough reason.

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This tells us that Antony would rather stay in Egypt with Cleopatra, however, he has to return to Rome when there are matters of great urgency, such as the Roman Empire or when he is asked to return by Caesar. This tells us although Antony loves Cleopatra very much, Antony is still very much a devoted and loyal Roman, and that as a part of the Roman army, he still takes his duties very seriously over love. Antony then asks the Soothsayer to explain this, he says: “If you can, your reason?” The Soothsayer replies: “I see it in my motion, have it not in my tongue; but yet hie you to Egypt again”.

By this the Soothsayer means that he can foresee Antony returning to Egypt, but he is unable to explain it. In saying this the Soothsayer adds drama to the scene and is saying that he is predicting something foreboding that will happen to Antony, but by not being able to tell Antony what it is, it makes the scene more tense and allows for predictions of what may happen to Antony. Furthermore Antony asks: “Say to me, whose fortunes shall rise higher, Caesar’s or mine?” And the Soothsayer replies: “Caesar’s Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side.

Thy daemon – that thy spirit which keeps thee – is Noble, courageous, high unmatchable, Where Caesar’s is not. But near him thy angel Becomes afeard, as being o’erpowered; therefore Make space enough between you”. This is showing the audience just what the relationship is like between Antony and Caesar. It shows although Antony is far superior in battle, Caesar will always triumph, and whilst this happens, they will never have a good relationship. Antony will not be able to trust Caesar and Caesar will only be friends with Antony when it benefits himself, such as winning a battle.

The Soothsayer seems to suggest, next to Caesar, Antony will always feel inadequate. Also, there are many forces pulling him back to Egypt, such as his love for Cleopatra. Antony then tells the Soothsayer to stop talking about this. Most likely because it was not in his favour and the Soothsayer tells him to get away from Caesar because he is in danger if he stays in Rome. Also, this news, that Antony won’t be safe with Caesar gives him an excuse to return to Egypt, to live with Cleopatra, so this may work in Antony’s favour after all.

Finally, although the Soothsayer does not bring good news to Antony, the Soothsayer adds a great deal of drama to the scene. Another main character of the play is Caesar, who is the Roman Emperor. Caesar highlights both Antony’s strengths and weaknesses to the audience. He also draws attention to Antony’s failings to make himself look better; however, he does acknowledge Antony’s superiority in battle.

In Act 1, Scene 3, Caesar speaks to Lepidus about Antony’s drinking habits, and that he fishes and wastes his time by spending time drinking at night. “…he fishes, drinks and wastes The lamps of night in revel; is not more manlike Than Cleopatra…” Caesar sneers that Antony is no more of a man than Cleopatra. Caesar seems to praise Antony when his actions benefit himself, but when his actions do not fit that of a Roman soldier, Caesar immediately draws attention to those actions. But, in this comment by Caesar, he draws upon the sexuality and Egyptian culture of Cleopatra, which is a very big contrast to that of the Roman culture, which sees itself as superior to all others.

This could also show Caesar as being jealous of Antony. The fact that Antony can have a good time with his friends and can still be an excellent soldier is a fact which Caesar does not seem to like. Caesar maybe jealous of this ability, and because Caesar has very little or no friends at all, the only things that Caesar is able to do is make Antony look bad in front of his fellow soldiers and friends.

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Shakespear's Anthony and Cleopatra. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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