Antony - A Tragic Hero? Essays

Antony - A Tragic Hero? Essays

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In order to determine whether Antony is a tragic hero in Antony and Cleopatra, we must first define exactly what a tragic hero is, before being able to analyse whether Antony is portrayed as such. It is generally accepted that a tragic hero is a “man of noble stature”, who falls from a place grace, who exhibits many extraordinary qualities that set him apart from other men and who is a remarkable example of someone in his position. A key element of a tragic hero is that the audience must feel pity for the character’s death or downfall and there are several reasons both why the audience would feel pity for and why they wouldn’t feel pity for Antony upon his death.
Antony is generally highly regarded and his status as a tragic hero is elevated through others’ accounts of him, as well as through poetic nature of the characters’ speech, despite the reckless impression we get of him. For example, Enobarbus remarked that he is “nobler than my result is infamous”. Additionally, Philo’s initial dialogue concerning Antony in Act 1.1.1-9 speaks highly of him: “Those his godly eyes,/That o’er the files and musters of the war/Have glowed like plated Mars, now bend, now turn/The office and devotion of their view/Upon a tawny front.” Similarly, Cleopatra exclaims “his legs bestrid the ocean; his reared arm Crested the world”. This poetic image summarizes her positive view of Antony, by speaking about him in such cosmic proportions, therefore strengthening Antony’s stature. Furthermore, despite Caesar being portrayed as an all round better leader than Antony, even he has admiration for Antony, as demonstrated in Act 1.4.69-72.
… And all this -
It wounds thine honour that I speak it now
Was borne so like a soldier that thy cheek
So m...

... middle of paper ...

...n overall negative impression. The audience feels, by the end of the play, that Antony got what was coming to him, and his downfall was nobody’s fault but his own. Granville-Barker agrees, he claims that Antony (and Cleopatra) “themselves do not kindle pity and admiration to the full.” This kindling of pity and admiration is one of the key elements of being a tragic hero and as they do not fulfil this prerequisite, the audience is unable to view them in such a way.

• Antony and Cleopatra: edited by Mary Berry and Michael Clamp. Cambridge University Press
• Antony and Cleopatra: edited by Roma Gill. Oxford University Press
• Essays: (1) H. Granville-Barker The Construction of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’
(2) I. Vignier The Tragic in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’

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