Tragic Heroism in Shakespeare's Antony And Cleopatra

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In the tragedy “Antony and Cleopatra”, Shakespeare presents our protagonist Mark Antony as a tragic hero. He does this by using a number of dramatically effective methods, including language, staging techniques and structure. Aristotle defines a tragic hero as a character of noble stature who has a tragic flaw (usually hubris which is over confidence/arrogance) and suffers a downfall that is partially their fault but also due to factors beyond their control. The downfall they suffer exceeds the “crime” but the tragic hero gains some sort of self-awareness. Before the audience meets Antony, Shakespeare presents us with two soldiers discussing Antony’s current debauched life. This is dramatically effective staging because they are acting as a Greek chorus; relaying to the audience the general feeling in Rome and making us privy to feelings of irritation that Antony is unaware of. Philo tells us scathingly that “this dotage of our general’s/O’erflows the measure.” The use of the word “general” in the first line immediately tells us that Antony is a man of great rank. Quickly following this, he tells us that Antony “glowed like plated Mars” on the battlefield. This immediately raises his status to that of a god of war. This allows the audience to recognise Antony as a man who has gone into decline; he was not always a pleasure seeking man. Rank and stature are important aspects of the tragic hero; Aristotle believed that a tragic hero has to be a man of noble stature because it will emphasise the extent of his downfall, making it much more tragic. Shakespeare presents the audience with a number of character interactions between the Roman soldiers to show Antony’s former greatness, rank and stature. They regularly use imagery of... ... middle of paper ... ...ge including “noblest of men” and “the soldier’s pole.” The audience walks away from the performance with a cathartic feeling, thinking that “good” had triumphed over “evil.” Shakespeare’s presentation of Antony as a tragic hero is superb, we are told of his highs and taken through his lows, we see him loving others and being selfish. He dies as a better person than the man we met at the beginning of the play and this is an important aspect of the tragic hero: that he has learnt something at the end of all his suffering. Bibliography: (1971) New Swan Shakespeare, Advanced Series, Antony and Cleopatra -- contextual information and quotations Webography: http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/tragedy/aristotle.htm -- Aristotle http://www.roman-empire.net/children/gods.html -- Roman gods http://www.unrv.com/fall-republic/second-triumvirate.php -- the Triumvirate

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