You are on page 1of 6

Antonio si Cleopatra

The most influential writer in all of English literature, William Shakespeare was born in 1 5 64 to a successful mi le!class glo"e maker in Stratfor !upon!A"on, Englan # Shakespeare atten e grammar school, but his formal e ucation procee e no further# $n 15%& he marrie an ol er woman, Anne 'athawa(, an ha three chil ren with her# Aroun 15 ) * he left his famil( behin an tra"ele to +on on to work as an actor an pla(wright# ,ublic an critical acclaim -uickl( followe , an Shakespeare e"entuall( became the most popular pla(wright in Englan an part!owner of the .lobe Theater# 'is career bri ge the reigns of Eli/abeth $ 0rule 155%116*23 an 4ames $ 0rule 16*2116&53, an he was a fa"orite of both monarchs# $n ee , 4ames grante Shakespeare5s compan( the greatest possible compliment b( bestowing upon its members the title of 6ing5s 7en# Wealth( an renowne , Shakespeare retire to Stratfor an ie in 1616 at the age of fift(!two# At the time of Shakespeare5s eath, literar( luminaries such as 8en 4onson haile his works as timeless# Shakespeare5s works were collecte an printe in "arious e itions in the centur( following his eath, an b( the earl( eighteenth centur( his reputation as the greatest poet e"er to write in English was well establishe # The unprece ente a miration garnere b( his works le to a fierce curiosit( about Shakespeare5s life, but the earth of biographical information has left man( etails of Shakespeare5s personal histor( shrou e in m(ster(# Some people ha"e conclu e from this fact an from Shakespeare5s mo est e ucation that Shakespeare5s pla(s were actuall( written b( someone else9:rancis 8acon an the Earl of ;<for are the two most popular !can i ates9but the support for this claim is o"erwhelmingl( circumstantial, an the theor( is not taken seriousl( b( man( scholars# $n the absence of cre ible e"i ence to the contrar(, Shakespeare must be "iewe as the author of the thirt(!se"en pla(s an 154 sonnets that bear his name# The legac( of this bo ( of work is immense# A number of Shakespeare5s pla(s seem to ha"e transcen e e"en the categor( of brilliance, becoming so influential as to affect profoun l( the course of Western literature an culture e"er after# Scholars belie"e that Shakespeare wrote Antony and Cleopatrain 16*6, imme iatel( after Macbeth, an it is one of the last great trage ies that Shakespeare pro uce # The most geographicall( sweeping of Shakespeare5s pla(s, Antony and Cleopatra5s setting is the entire =oman Empire, its back rop the well! ocumente histor( of ;cta"ius Caesar, 7arc Anton(, an Cleopatra# Shakespeare5s primar( source for Antony and Cleopatra was theLife of 7arcus Antonius containe in ,lutarch5s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, which was translate into English b( Sir Thomas >orth in 1 5 ?) # >orth5s language was so rich that Shakespeare incorporate large, relati"el( unchange e<cerpts of it into his te<t# The plot of the pla( also remains close to >orth5s histor(, although characters like Enobarbus an Cleopatra5s atten ants are largel( Shakespearean creations# The action of the stor( takes place roughl( two (ears after the e"ents of Shakespeare5s earlier pla( about the =oman Empire,Julius Caesar. At the beginning of that trage (, Caesar has triumphe o"er his ri"al ,ompe( the .reat, the father of (oung ,ompe( in Antony and Cleopatra, an aspires to kingship# Caesar is then assassinate b( Cassius an 8rutus, who

hope to preser"e the =oman =epublic# $nstea , Cassius an 8rutus are efeate b( 7ark Anton( an ;cta"ius Caesar, 4ulius5s nephew, who then @oin 7arcus Aemilius +epi us to create a three!man go"ernment, or trium"irate, o"er the empire# 'istoricall(, the action of Antony and Cleopatra takes place o"er a ten!(ear span, whereas in the pla( the stor( is compresse to fit the nee s of the stage# Anton( is clearl( much ol er than he was in Julius Caesar, an his political instincts seem to be waning# ;cta"ius Caesar was onl( a minor character in the earlier pla(, but here he comes into his own as the man who will rise to become the first =oman emperor# 7ost of the political battles an machinations epicte are historicall( accurate, as is the romance of the title characters# Antony ! A once fierce an feare sol ier who rules the =oman Empire along with ;cta"ius Caesar an +epi us# When the pla( opens, Anton( has neglecte his uties as a ruler in or er to li"e in Eg(pt, where he carries on a highl( "isible lo"e affair with Cleopatra# 'is lo(alt( is i"i e between the Western an Eastern worl sA he is torn between the sense of ut( an the esire to seek pleasure, between reason an passion# While he feels the nee to reaffirm the honor that has ma e him a celebrate =oman hero, he is also ma l( in lo"e with Cleopatra# Cleopatra ! The -ueen of Eg(pt an Anton(5s lo"er# A highl( attracti"e woman who once se uce 4ulius Caesar, Cleopatra elights in the thought that she has caught Anton( like a fish# $n matters of lo"e, as in all things, Cleopatra fa"ors high ramaB her emotions are as "olatile as the( are theatrical, an , regar less of whether her au ience is her han mai or the emperor of =ome, she alwa(s offers a top!notch performance# Although she ten s to make a spectacle of her emotions, one cannot oubt the genuine nature of her lo"e for Anton(# Shakespeare makes clear that the -ueen does lo"e the general, e"en if her lo(alt( is sometimes misplace # =ea an in! epth anal(sis of Cleopatra# Octavius Caesar ! The nephew an a opte son of 4ulius Caesar# ;cta"ius rules the =oman Empire with Anton( an +epi us# =elations between Caesar an Anton( are straine throughout the pla(, for the (oung trium"ir belie"es that Anton( s-uan ers his time an neglects his uties while in Eg(pt# Ambitious an e<tremel( pragmatic, ;cta"ius lacks Anton(5s militar( might as a general, but his careful an stoic reasoning enables him to a"oi Anton(5s ten enc( towar heroic or romantic foll(# Cestine to be the first =oman emperor 0later rename Caesar Augustus3, he s(mboli/es DWesternE "alues in the pla(, which stan oppose to the e<otic lures of Cleopatra5s DEast#E =ea an in! epth anal(sis of ;cta"ius Caesar# Enobarbus ! Anton(5s most lo(al supporter# Worl l( an c(nical, Enobarbus is frien l( with the subor inates of both ,ompe( an Caesar, (et sta(s faithful to his master e"en after Anton( makes gra"e political an militar( missteps# 'e aban ons Anton( onl( when the general appears to be completel( finishe # Marcus Aemilius Lepidus ! The thir member of the trium"irate an the weakest, both politicall( an personall(# +epi us5s rather esperate attempts to keep the peace between Caesar an Anton( fail when Caesar imprisons him after the efeat of ,ompe(# Pompey ! The son of a great general who was one of 4ulius Caesar5s partners in power# ,ompe( is (oung an popular with the =oman people, an he possesses enough militar( might to stan as a legitimate threat to the trium"irs# 'e fancies himself honorable for refusing to allow one of his men to kill the unsuspecting Caesar, Anton(, an +epi us when the( are his guests# Octavia ! ;cta"ius Caesar5s sister# ;cta"ia marries Anton( in or er to cement an alliance between the two trium"irs# She is a "ictim of Anton(5s eception, an her meekness, purit(, an submission make her the para igm of =oman womanhoo , an Cleopatra5s polar opposite# Charmian and Iras ! Cleopatra5s faithful atten ants#

The Soothsayer ! An Eg(ptian fortune!teller who follows Anton( to =ome an pre icts that his fortune will alwa(s pale in comparison to Caesar5s# Dolabella ! ;ne of ;cta"ius Caesar5s men# Colabella is assigne to guar the capti"e Cleopatra# Agrippa ! ;ne of ;cta"ius Caesar5s officers# Agrippa lea s the retreat from Anton(5s une<pecte l( powerful forces# Camidius ! A general in Anton(5s arm(# After the battle in which Anton( follows Cleopatra5s lea an flees, Cami ius surren ers an efects to Caesar5s si e# entidius ! A =oman sol ier un er Anton(5s comman # Fenti ius lea s the legions to "ictor( against the king om of ,arthia# Although a competent fighter, he cautiousl( eci es not to push his troops further into battle, for fear that winning too much glor( woul sour his relationship with Anton(# Scarus ! A bra"e (oung sol ier ser"ing un er Anton(# Scarus garners fantastic woun s in the battle against Caesar5s arm(, an begs for the opportunit( to win more# Proculeius ! ;ne of Caesar5s sol iers, who pro"es untrustworth(# Diomedes ! Cleopatra5s ser"ant# She emplo(s Ciome es to bring to Anton( the message that she has not committe suici e but is still ali"e# Eros ! An atten ant ser"ing Anton(# Eros5s lo"e for his master compels him to refuse Anton(5s or er that Eros kill him# Menas ! An ambitious (oung sol ier un er ,ompe(# Curing the inner part( that ,ompe( hosts for the trium"irate, 7enas asks for permission to kill Caesar, Anton(, an +epi us, which woul result in the control of the worl falling into his master5s han s# Seleucus ! Cleopatra5s treasurer, who betra(s his master# Clo!n ! An Eg(ptian who brings a basket of figs containing poisonous snakes to Cleopatra# Decretas ! ;ne of Anton(5s sol iers# Themes Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas e plored in a literary !or". The Struggle "et!een #eason and Emotion $n his opening lines to Cemetrius, ,hilo complains that Anton( has aban one the militar( en ea"ors on which his reputation is base for Cleopatra5s sake# 'is criticism of Anton(5s D otage,E or stupi it(, intro uces a tension between reason an emotion that runs throughout the pla( 0$#i#1 3# Anton( an Cleopatra5s first e<change heightens this tension, as the( argue whether their lo"e can be put into wor s an un erstoo or whether it e<cee s such faculties an boun aries of reason# $f, accor ing to =oman consensus, Anton( is the militar( hero an iscipline statesmen that Caesar an others belie"e him to be, then he seems to ha"e happil( aban one his reason in or er to pursue his passion# 'e eclaresB D+et =ome in Tiber melt, an the wi e arch G ;f the range empire fallE 0$#i#2 5 12 6 3# The pla(, howe"er, is more concerne with the battle between reason an emotion than the triumph of one o"er the other, an this battle is wage most forcefull( in the character of Anton(# 7ore than an( other character in the pla(, Anton( "acillates between Western an Eastern sensibilities, feeling pulle b( both his ut( to the empire an his esire for pleasure, his want of militar( glor( an his passion for Cleopatra# Soon after his nonchalant ismissal of Caesar5s messenger, the empire, an his ut( to it, he chastises himself for his neglect an commits to return to =ome, lest he Dlose HhimIself in otageE 0$#ii#1* 6 3# As the pla( progresses, Anton( continues to inhabit conflicting i entities that pla( out the struggle between reason an emotion# At one moment, he is the "engeful war hero whom Caesar praises an fears# Soon thereafter, he sacrifices his militar( position b( unwisel(

allowing Cleopatra to etermine his course of action# As his =oman allies9e"en the e"er! faithful Enobarbus9aban on him, Anton( feels that he has, in ee , lost himself in otage, an he etermines to rescue his noble i entit( b( taking his own life# At first, this course of action ma( appear to be a triumph of reason o"er passion, of !Western sensibilities o"er Eastern ones, but the pla( is not that simple# Although Anton( ies belie"ing himself a man of honor, iscipline, an reason, our un erstan ing of him is not nearl( as straight!forwar # $n or er to come to terms with Anton(5s character, we must anal(/e the aspects of his i entit( that he ignores# 'e is, in the en , a man rule b( passion as much as b( reason# +ikewise, the pla( offers us a worl "iew in which one sensibilit( cannot easil( ominate another# =eason cannot e"er full( con-uer the passions, nor can passion wholl( un o reason# The Clash o$ East and %est Although Antony and Cleopatra etails the conflict between =ome an Eg(pt, gi"ing us an i ea of the Eli/abethan perceptions of the ifference between Western an Eastern cultures, it oes not make a efiniti"e statement about which culture ultimatel( triumphs# $n the pla(, the Western an Eastern poles of the worl are characteri/e b( those who inhabit themB Caesar, for instance, embo ies the stoic ut( of the West, while Cleopatra, in all her theatrical gran eur, represents the free!flowing passions of the East# Caesar5s concerns throughout the pla( are certainl( imperialB he means to in"a e foreign lan s in or er to in"est them with tra itions an sensibilities of his own# 8ut the pla( resists si ing with this imperialist impulse# Shakespeare, in other wor s, oes not align the pla(5s s(mpathies with the WestA Antony and Cleopatra can har l( be rea as propagan a for Western omination# ;n the contrar(, the =oman un erstan ing of Cleopatra an her king om seems e<cee ingl( superficial# To Caesar, the -ueen of Eg(pt is little more than a whore with a flair for rama# 'is perspecti"e allows little room for the real power of Cleopatra5s se<ualit(9she can, after all, persua e the most ecorate of generals to follow her into ignoble retreat# Similarl(, it allows little room for the in omitable strength of her will, which she emonstrates so forcefull( at the en of the pla( as she refuses to allow herself to be turne into a DEg(ptian puppetE for the entertainment of the =oman masses 0F#ii#& * 4 3# $n Antony and Cleopatra, West meets East, but it oes not, regar less of Caesar5s triumph o"er the lan of Eg(pt, con-uer it# Cleopatra5s suici e suggests that something of the East5s spirit, the free oms an passions that are not represente in the pla(5s conception of the West, cannot be subsume b( Caesar5s "ictor(# The pla( suggests that the East will li"e on as a "isible an uncon-uerable counterpoint to the West, boun as inseparabl( an eternall( as Anton( an Cleopatra are in their tomb# The De$inition o$ &onor Throughout the pla(, characters efine honor "ariousl(, an often in wa(s that are not intuiti"e# As Anton( prepares to meet Caesar in battle, he etermines that he Dwill li"e G ;r bathe HhisI (ing honour in the bloo G Shall make it li"e againE 0$F#ii#51 ? 3# 'ere, he e<plicitl( links the notion of honor to to that of eath, suggesting the latter as a surefire means of achie"ing the former# The pla( bears out this assertion, since, although Anton( an Cleopatra kill themsel"es for ifferent reasons, the( both imagine that the act in"ests them with honor# $n eath, Anton( returns to his i entit( as a true, noble =oman, becoming Da =oman b( a =oman G Faliantl( "an-uishe E 0$F#<"i#5 ) 16 * 3, while Cleopatra resol"es to Dbur( him, an then what5s bra"e, what5s noble, G +et5s o it after the high =oman fashionE 0$F#<"i#%) 1 ) * 3# At first, the -ueen5s wor s seem to suggest that honor is a istinctl( =oman attribute, but Cleopatra5s eath, which

is her means of ensuring that she remains her truest, most uncompromise self, is istinctl( against =ome# $n Antony and Cleopatra, honor seems less a function of Western or Eastern culture than of the characters5 etermination to efine themsel"es on their own terms# 8oth Anton( an Cleopatra secure honorable eaths b( refusing to compromise their i entities# Moti$s Motifs are recurrin# structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the te t$s ma%or themes. E'travagant Declarations o$ Love $n Act $, scene i, Anton( an Cleopatra argue o"er whether their lo"e for one another can be measure an articulate B C L &' ( A TRA ) *to Antony+ ,f it be love indeed, tell me ho! much. A N T' N- ) There$s be##ary in the love that can be rec"oned. C L &' ( A TRA ) ,$ll set a bourn ho! far to be beloved. A N T' N- ) Then must thou needs find out ne! heaven, ne! earth. .,.i./0 1/ 2 3 This e<change sets the tone for the wa( that lo"e will be iscusse an un erstoo throughout the pla(# Cleopatra e<presses the e<pectation that lo"e shoul be eclare or emonstrate gran l(# She wants to hear an see e<actl( how much Anton( lo"es her# +o"e, in Antony and Cleopatra, is not comprise of pri"ate intimacies, as it is in Romeo and Juliet.$nstea , lo"e belongs to the public arena# $n the lines -uote abo"e, Cleopatra claims that she will set the boun aries of her lo"er5s affections, an Anton( respon s that, to o so, she will nee to isco"er uncharte territories# 8( likening their lo"e to the isco"er( an claim of Dnew hea"en, new earth,E the couple links pri"ate emotions to affairs of state# +o"e, in other wor s, becomes an e<tension of politics, with the anne<ation of another5s heart analogous to the con-uering of a foreign lan # Public Displays o$ A$$ection $n Antony and Cleopatra, public ispla(s of affection are generall( un erstoo to be e<pressions of political power an allegiance# Caesar, for e<ample, laments that ;cta"ia arri"es in =ome without the fanfare of a proper entourage because it betra(s her weaknessB without an accompan(ing arm( of horses, guar smen, an trumpeters, she cannot possibl( be recogni/e as Caesar5s sister or Anton(5s wife# The connection between public ispla( an power is one that the characters9especiall( Caesar an Cleopatra9un erstan well# After Anton(5s eath, their battle of wills re"ol"es aroun Caesar5s esire to e<hibit the Eg(ptian -ueen on the streets of =ome as a sign of his triumph# Cleopatra refuses such an en , choosing instea to take her own life# E"en this act is meant as a public performance, howe"erB ecke in her gran est ro(al robes an pla(ing the part of the tragic lo"er, Cleopatra inten s her last act to be as much a efiance of Caesar5s power as a gesture of romantic e"otion# :or eath, she claims, is Dthe wa( G To fool their preparation an to con-uer G Their most absur intentsE 0F#ii#& & *1 & & & 3# (emale Se'uality Throughout the pla(, the male characters rail against the power of female se<ualit(# Caesar an his men con emn Anton( for the weakness that makes him bow to the Eg(ptian -ueen,

but the( clearl( la( the blame for his ownfall on Cleopatra# ;n the rare occasion that the =omans o not refer to her as a whore, the( escribe her as an enchantress whose beaut( casts a angerous spell o"er men# As Enobarbus notes, Cleopatra possesses the power to warp the min s an @u gment of all men, e"en Dhol( priestsE who DHbIless herE when she acts like a whore 0$$#ii#& 4 41 & 4 5 3# The unapologetic openness of Cleopatra5s se<ualit( stan s to threaten the =omans# 8ut the( are e-uall( obsesse with the powers of ;cta"ia5s se<ualit(# Caesar5s sister, who, in beaut( an temperament stan s as Cleopatra5s opposite, is ne"ertheless consi ere to possess power enough to men the trium"ir5s amage relationshipB Caesar an Anton( e<pect that she will ser"e to Dknit HtheirI hearts G With an unslipping knotE 0$$#ii#1 2 &1 1 2 2 3# $n this wa(, women are sa le with both the responsibilit( for men5s political alliances an the blame for their personal failures# Symbols 4ymbols are ob%ects, characters, fi#ures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Shape)Changing Clouds $n Act $F, scene <", Anton( likens his shifting sense of self to a clou that changes shape as it tumbles across the sk(# 4ust as the clou turns from Da bear or lion, G A towere cita el, a pen ent rock,E Anton( seems to change from the repute con-ueror into a ebase "ictim 0$F#<"#2 1 4 3# As he sa(s to Eros, his uncharacteristic efeat, both on the battlefiel an in matters of lo"e, makes it ifficult for him to Dhol this "isible shapeE 0$F#<"#1 4 3# Cleopatra*s (leeing Ships The image of Cleopatra5s fleeing ships is presente twice in the pla(# Anton( twice oes battle with Caesar at sea, an both times his na"( is betra(e b( the -ueen5s retreat# The ships remin us of Cleopatra5s inconstanc( an of the inconstanc( of human character in the pla(# ;ne cannot be sure of Cleopatra5s allegianceB it is uncertain whether she flees out of fear or because she reali/es it woul be politicall( sa""( to align herself with Caesar# 'er fleeing ships are an effecti"e s(mbol of her wa"ering an changeabilit(# The Asps ;ne of the most memorable s(mbols in the pla( comes in its final moments, as Cleopatra applies ea l( snakes to her skin# The asps are a prop in the -ueen5s final an most magnificent performance# As she lifts one snake, then another to her breast, the( become her chil ren an she a common wet nurseB DCost thou not see m( bab( at m( breast, G That sucks the nurse asleepJE 0F#ii#2* * 1 2* 1 3# The omestic nature of the image contributes to Cleopatra5s final metamorphosis, in eath, into Anton(5s wife# She assures him, D'usban , $ comeE 0F#ii#&? % 3#