One of the foremost of themes in the play of Antony and Cleopatra
alongside “tragedy” and “love” is the differences between the two
“worlds” of Rome and Egypt. Throughout the play, Shakespeare
frequently presents and demonstrates to the audience the reality and
differences between these two “worlds” in many ways and forms. In this
essay I will discuss how Shakespeare does this and how he presents it
to the audience.
Antony, who is the primary character in the play, portrays the ideas
of the two “worlds” of Egypt and Rome very clearly. Shakespeare
presents Antony as a different man when in Rome and a different one
when in Egypt.
Shakespeare organises the plot of Antony and Cleopatra around the
theme of conflict between Rome and Egypt immediately. In the opening
scene the two soldiers Philo and Demetrius discuss Antony’s
surrendering of his military duties to the exotic pleasures of Egypt
and Cleopatra. Both Philo and Demetrius discuss the divide in world
where one is governed by discipline and reason (Rome), and the other
ruled by pleasure and love. Both Philo and Demetrius discuss and claim
that Antony’s "captain's heart" now serves as,
"The bellows and the fan / to cool a gypsy’s lust”
This reflects their view of the world being divided into two entities.
And that Egypt is ruled by a “gypsy”, or in other worlds a whore.
The reason why they refer to Cleopatra as a whore is because a whore’s
job is to sleep with many men without any feelings for them. This is
what Cleopatra does and has done and both Philo and Demetrius believe
Antony is just wasting ...
... middle of paper ...
... messenger to him, and she tell the messenger,
“Well, go to, I will. But there’s no goodness in thy face if Antony be
free and healthful- so tart a favour, to trumpet such good tidings. If
not well, thou shouldst come like a fury crowned with snakes, not like
a formal man”
Cleopatra sends the messenger and tells him that if he sees Antony
with a miserable face, be “healthful” i.e. happy, and if he sees him
with a glad face, then “come like a fury crowned with snakes”.
Cleopatra deliberately deceives Antony with the power of love and
Shakespeare presents ideas of conflict and differences between Rome
and Egypt very clearly. He continuously raises the question to the
audience as to which “world” is more superior and more powerful.
Shakespeare leaves it to the audience to come to their own judgement.
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