What significance does he have in the play: Antony & Cleopatra Essay
What significance does he have in the play: Antony & Cleopatra
Enobarbus is a significant character in Shakespeare’s play and contributes to the drama in a number of ways. He is sympathetic to Antony from the start and is his most loyal and devoted friend which allows him to speak freely, even when he is critical of Antony.
Shakespeare is able to use Enobarbus as a vehicle for the truth and common sense. When Antony’s rational thinking escapes him, Enobarbus is not afraid to speak his mind and give his objective view. This can be seen near the start of the play when Antony wishes he had never met Cleopatra, instead of agreeing with his superior officer, Enobarbus offers the rejoinder, had that been the case, Antony would have _’MISSED A WONDERFUL PIECE OF WORK’_ . This also shows Enobarbus is not your usual Roman misogynistic man like his fellow countrymen Philo and Demetrius. In fact, Enobarbus mirrors Antony’s love of the Egyptian lifestyle _’BRING IN THE BANQUET QUICKLY. WINE ENOUGH CLEOPATRA’S HEALTH TO DRINK’_
Enobarbus could also be seen as an instrument to highlight the exaggerated lives and relationship of Antony and Cleopatra. In Act 2 Scene 2, Enobarbus delivers one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches, and it changes the whole tone of the play dramatically. Up until this speech, the reader could only guess about the mythical connections that bind Antony and Cleopatra together _’_ _THE BARGE SHE SAT IN, LIKE A BURNISHED THRONE, BURNED ON THE WATER. THE POOP WAS BEATEN GOLD…AGE COULD NOT WITHER HER, NOR CUSTOM STALE HER INFINITE VARIETY…’_ This poetic speech not only highlight’s Cleopatra’s mythical god like qualities, but emphasise the superior qualities Antony possesses, because only a truly prominent figure of a man could conquer the love of a lady such as Cleopatra. The speech is also an insight into Enobarbus’s feelings for Cleopatra, as poetry such as this speech was so far removed from the character of a Roman soldier that it must be inspired by personal feelings.
Enobarbus is also used to foreshadow future events in the play. In Act 2 Scene 6, Enobarbus states that the tension felt by Antony and Caesar has not dissipated and will return with a vengeance _’THE BAND THAT SEEMS TO TIE THEIR FRIENDSHIP TOGETHER WILL BE THE VERY STRANGLER OF THEIR AMITY’ HINTING AT THINGS TO COME, AND STATING ‘…WILL TO HIS EGYPTIAN DISH AGAIN’_ Enobarbus is also implying Antony’s marriage to Octavia will be short lived, this could also be seen as Enobarbus foretelling Antony’s eventual downfall. This marriage of convienience could not release the hold Cleopatra has over Antony, and the impending marital break up will end the peace with Caesar. In Act 3 Scene 5, Enobarbus foresees the final battle between Antony and Caesar, one he believes will be a fight to the death, winner takes all. _’THEY’LL GRIND THE ONE THE OTHER’_.
Enobarbus can also be critical, for instance, when Cleopatra joins Antony in battle, he criticises her _’YOUR PRESENCE NEEDS MUST PUZZLE ANTONY, TAKE HIS HEART, TAKE HIS BRAIN, FROM’S TIME’_ , as he knows her presence will distract Antony, and the battle will end badly.
Enobarbus uses his common sense to leave Antony when he knows all is lost, choosing dishonour over death, but his deep sense of loyalty and love for Antony leads him to die of a broken heart _’THROW MY HEART AGAINST THE FLINT AND HARDNESS OF MY FAULT, WHICH BEING DRIED WITH GRIEF, WILL BREAK TO POWDER AND FINISH MY FOUL THOUGHTS. O ANTONY, NOBLER THAN MY REVOLT IS INFAMOUS’._
To conclude, Enobarbus was indeed a significant figure in the play, he was a reliable guide, showed common sense when all around him were void of it. He also foreshadowed events such as, the Battle of Actium and the fates of Antony and Cleopatra. His character was not a supporting role like Charmain and Iras, he helped drive the play along, clarifying events for the reader, and even his dishonourable death clarified the tragical betrayal of honour in the world that was disintegrating around Antony.