Antony was a strong leader in Rome; he met Cleopatra after his friend Julius Caesar was murdered. Cleopatra was suspected of killing Julius, as she was his lover. Antony helped her escape from Rome. After Julius’ death Antony became the second triumvirate along with Lepidus and Octavius Caesar who was Julius Caesers adopted son. At this time he was stereotypical of a Roman head figure according to Shakespeares contrast between Egypt and Rome.
Whilst in Egypt he begins to pick up certain Egyptian traits such as indulging himself in an excess of physical pleasures and begins to speak in the languorous tones of Egypt. Cleopatra was a powerful queen; both her and Antony were strong figures at this time. Cleopatra is the representation of Egypt. She is warm and passionate. Both Antony and Cleopatra want power and they saw their relationship as a way to enhance their reputation. She is very insecure and manipulates Antony forcing him to prove his love for her. She wishes to build up a great empire much like Alexander the Great’s.
The two worlds are extremely different. Rome is cruel, hard and direct whereas Egypt is exotic, luxurious and feminine which is a good way to describe Antony’s loss of power. The introduction of the play is a speech from Philo which explains about Antony’s past and he was a captain of war. “his captain’s heart, which in the scuffles of a great fight hath burst The buckles on his breast” Act I, scene i. This image of a great man now contrasted with the new doting lover, the “strumpets fool” is a very significant image and adds to the tragedy of the play.
Cleopatra has transformed this great man from one of the “triple pillars of the world” into this weak sensuous fool. Enobarbus’s speech in Act II, scene ii describes Antony and Cleopatra at the height of their relationship but it also shows other people’s perception of them as a couple but in truth they are very frail. “And for his ordinary, pays his heart, For what his eyes eat only” II, ii, 225-226 Enobabus embellishes Antony and Cleopatras meeting until it is almost a fantasy. He is so inspired that it makes the reader wonder whether Enobarbus himself is in love with Cleopatra.
I think that Enobabus is quite an ambiguous character you can never tell if his intentions are good or bad which leads the reader into wondering whether he will betray Antony or not. This speech is essential to the play as it makes Antony’s fall even more tragic and how there is such a dramatic change in the two lover’s relationship at the beginning of the play. I think this is why Shakespeare created Enobarbus as a person for the audience to associate with. “The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, Burned on the
Water: the poop was beaten gold;…. The winds were love sick with them; the oars were silver,” II, ii, 191-194 Enobarbus uses very sensuous language to build up an image in the reader’s mind. He uses colours especially “gold” and “silver”. These are very beautiful colours associated with rich, beautiful, royal people. The whole scene is covered in a plethora of beauty. Food is also used to show the meeting of the two; it is always refereed to in larger quantities “feast”. This helps to show how magnificent the whole ordeal was.
The beginning and end of the play open with banquets and Cleopatra uses food as a metaphor for her love for Antony. Cleopatra in particular uses food frequently to express her love for Antony. She uses banquets and strong drink as a way of celebrating his return and whiling the hours away when he is in Rome. Everything is something to be consumed in Cleopatra’s eyes. This is shown at the end of the play when she asks the asp seller “will it eat me. “. “Ere the ninth hour, I drunk him to his bed” II, V, 21.
The opening scene of the play shows Antony and Cleopatra at the peak of their relationship but this degenerates rapidly when Antony finds out his wife Fulvia died and he has to return to Rome. Antony realises his responsibilities lie elsewhere. He has realised that he must break away from Cleopatra “These Egyptian fetters I must break, or loose my self in dotage” “I must from this enchanting queen break off” I, ii, 125 The first act opens by implying that Antony has his priorities wrong and that he spends more time dreaming about Cleopatra than being of any use “Nay but this dotage of our general’s O’er flows the measure”.
This is said by Philo who thinks that Antony who once watched over an army like a god (Hercules) and is now unsettled and looks upon a coloured girl. I believe this is a fair statement as Antony was once a great man and did a lot for the Roman Empire but now is more oh a hindrance than help. The significance of this is that the two men talking are Romans and they portray all of the Romans views of Antony. The passage also dwells on the loss of interest in his country and how Antony is now only interested in a coloured girl “tawny front girl. ”
This is the first stage of their relationship in the play and is at its best. Shakespeare chooses this as the beginning of the play because it shows the love between the two before their tragic fall. The degeneration of their relationship occurs very quickly after this point. Cleopatra throughout the first act encourages Antony to confess his love for her and often twists the things he says so she can asses how far Antony is willing to stoop to keep their relationship together. Antony believes that love can be felt and there is no reason to have to remind each other frequently.
Cleopatra, however, shows her insecurity by believing she can’t keep her lover because of her fading beauty “and wrinkled deep in time”. Whilst he is away she seems a lot more secure but still sees her self as past her best. Cleopatra is often sarcastic about Antonies past life especially about his first wife Fulvia who lives in Rome “I laugh’d him out of patients”. She encourages him to go back to Rome which forces Antony to stay in Rome because he knows if he leaves this will make her more paranoid and insecure.
He now has to convince Cleoptra that he loves her and she refuses to believe him as he married Fulvia who he now doesn’t love and she worries Antony will go back to Rome for good. Ironically when he goes back to Rome he almost marries Caeser’s sister Octavia showing that Cleopatra does have reason to worry although the marriage was forced upon Antony. I believe that Antonys love for Cleopatra is sincere but Cleopatra is only with Antony to further her reputation and would leave him if a better opportunity were to arise.
“But my full heart remains in use with you” I, iii, 43-44 Also when Fulvia dies Antony must be very cautious because if he cries then Cleopatra will think that he loved her more than her but if he is happy then she will think that he would do the same if she were to die now. Antony can’t win. Often when Antony and Cleopatra are together they enter their own world where nothing exists and messengers enter frequently. I believe this are a reminder if reality and that Antony still has ties with Rome and he must decide whether or not he wants to break free from Rome or Cleopatra’s hold.