Free College Essays - The Use of Time in Antony and Cleopatra

Free College Essays - The Use of Time in Antony and Cleopatra

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 Use of Time in Anthony and Cleopatra  

 Shakespeare's use of time in Anthony and Cleopatra is seemingly [1] quite erratic.  However, it is important to note that Shakespeare was a playwright and his job was to write interesting drama, not to accurately record details of history.

 It therefore seems quite unfair to expect him to use time in a precise manner.  However, to dismiss Shakespeare's use of time as merely a mistake or the by product of his dramatisation of history [2]is to do it injustice.  It could easily be argued that there is a method in it.[3]

 To show this we can analyse one chunk of the play, staring at Act 1 Scene 3.  Here is where Anthony finally plucks up the courage to leave Egypt. 

In Act 1 Scene 4, we are in Rome and here we have Caesar complaining about Anthony while messengers bring news of how Pompey is doing at sea as well as his allies Menecrates and Menas. 

 In act 1 Scene 5 we are back in Egypt and Cleopatra is talking about how she misses Anthony. 

In Act 2 Scene 2 we are back in Rome and Anthony has finished his journey across the Mediterranean.  Anthony and Caesar get back on speaking terms and decide that to cement their relationship (or to destroy it, depending on your level of cynicism).  Octavia should marry Anthony. 

By Act 2 Scene 5the news of Anthony's betrothal has reached Cleopatra in Egypt and though she rants and raves she doesn't actually do anything constructive about it. 

In Act 2 Scene 7 we are in Rome again and there is a party where the three triumvirates become drunk to varying degrees .  In Act 3 Scene 2 Octavia and Anthony leave Rome together.  The next scene is in Egypt, where again very little action takes place.

In Act 3 Scene 4 the most remarkable act of condensation occurs when eight years of Octavia and Anthony's marriage are meant to have occurred. 

 By Act 3 Scene 6 we are in Rome and discussing the fact that Anthony has left Octavia in Athens and is back in Egypt.[4]

 So we see that in this chunk of the play there have been many things occurring in Rome, while in Egypt it might as well have been one long afternoon for all the deeds and actions that have occurred.

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  However, rather than this being a point against the play I believe it is in fact a point for the play.[5] 

 One of the things it does is to help show the differing styles of the two cities.  In Rome there are many actions and this is what Rome is best at, getting things done.  The fact that time passes so relatively quickly as helps to convey the frenetic pace at which everything is done in Egypt it is what is said that is important. 

 It is irrelevant whether we see different afternoons over a ten year period or whether we see one interminably long afternoon.  What is important is what is said by the Egyptians.  The slowness with which time passes also shows the relaxed atmosphere in which the Egyptians live. 

 Another interesting point could be that Cleopatra [7]is suffering from the opposite of "time goes quickly when you're having fun" that is to say that without Anthony there is no point to her life and she is simply waiting for him to get back for everything to start again.  If this is the case then it shows that she really does have deep emotions for Anthony and loves him, rather than just seducing him for political and economical gain.  [8]

 This point is backed up by Cleopatra's obvious and genuine anger.  In Act 2 Scene 5 where she even goes to the lengths of hitting the messenger who brought her the news of Anthony and Cleopatra's marriage.

When writing an essay such as this one it is very easy to become completely absorbed in the title and to view the entire reason that Shakespeare wrote this play was in order to use time as a dramatic tool when however you look at the wider picture and view the play as whole in this context the time becomes a rather less important factor and in the end unless you were specifically asked to focus upon it or you had a detailed historical knowledge I'm not even sure if you'd notice it. [9]B

 1. This is not a very successful first sentence - it doesn't really say anything. The word 'seemingly' adds nothing. Not encouraging for an examiner.

 2. It's important at this level to avoid stating the obvious. There is a reasonable point behind this, but we all know Shakespeare wasn't an historian.

3. There needs to be clear paragraph here. This is the start of an argument - it seems brisk and to the point although there is still no argument. Remember also to avoid words like 'chunk'.

 4. This long section is a problem: the student is quite right to focus on the text, but a list like this is not very helpful. What this paragraph lacks is an argument to overview to pull the references together. Also, there are too many - make your point and move on.

 5. There is no need to be so aggressive. By all means, argue your point but you need to have a more sophisticated approach than 'for' or 'against'.

 6. Excellent points here, although they need support with quotations.

 7. 'Could be' - is it? Avoid hedging your bets.

 8. The student seems to have forgotten the title here. This whole section is full of rather sloppy phrasing - putting your words into quote marks doesn't make it better. Make the point, develop, relate to text and question.

 9. This is a poor conclusion. Remember last paragraphs can be short - but they must leave the examiner with the clear idea that you had something to say about the text - and now you've said it.


This is an interesting question which asks the candidate to have a clear overview of the 'story' of the play, and relate this to the theme of transience. It is a rather difficult essay to grade. The student shows some awareness of the topic but actually makes very few precise points. There are no quotations and the structure does not support the essay in any way. As a result of these problems, the essay would not achieve more than a C grade.


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