It is not just through the characters that the theme of love and lust is developed in Act 1, Scene 1; the structure of the scene itself functions in such a way that the audiences’ first perspective of the love between Antony and Cleopatra is a disapproving look through the eyes of a Roman soldier. In the microcosm of the first scene we see the negative Roman views of Cleopatra juxtaposed with Antony’s insurmountable (“then must though needs find out new heaven, new earth. “) love for her.
Shakespeare also uses Cleopatra’s character to develop the themes of love, loyalty, lust and responsibility; not only is she a character who is loved greatly but she is also a character who is greatly capable of loving. Although Philo’s serious and disparaging descriptions of her in the first act make her out to be a harlot and a temptress, Enobarbus’s descriptions of her in Act 1, Scene 2 are much more bawdy, light hearted and sympathetic (Shakespeare conveys this through the use of prose) than the aforementioned pontificating diatribe.
Enobarbus, a Roman, sheds new light on the queen, presenting her as a passionate and loving woman capable of “greater storms and tempests than almanacs can report”; this metaphor relates the relentlessness of Cleopatra’s emotions to the harshness of a storm. However as much as she is Antony’s lover, she is also the woman who constantly tests his loyalty towards her.
She does not understand why Antony takes orders from the “scarce bearded” Caesar and as such manipulates and beguiles him into sending away the messengers that have come from Rome by accusing his romantic advances of being little more than an “excellent falsehood. ” Ironically it is Cleopatra herself who is well versed in falsehood, pretending to be sick in order to play with Antony’s emotions, using the very nature of their relationship against him and this is made clear when she asks Antony “why should [she] think [he] can be [hers] and true…
who have been false to Fulvia” and deliberately ignoring and interrupting him the fact that he has duties to attend to; from this it becomes clear that Cleopatra represents a force pulling Antony away from his duties as a politician. Consequentially Antony finds himself facing conflicting loyalties since the message of his wife Fulvia’s death in the first Act Antony has been becoming far more serious, even in the way he addresses his best friend Enobarbus.
Shakespeare has used the plot device of Fulvia’s death to develop Antony’s sense of responsibility; soon after she dies Antony is taking by “roman thought” and tells Enobarbus that there is no longer time for “light answers. ” The themes of duty and responsibility are explored further in Act 2, Scene 2 during Antony’s meeting with Caesar in Rome; this meeting signifies his acceptance of his responsibilities and duties as a Roman and as such this change in character can be seen in his speech which becomes far more prosaic and less poetic around Caesar than in his previous conversations with Cleopatra.
As both Caesar and Antony enter the stage they confer with their respective entourages, (presumably at opposite ends) a dramatic tension is created, making it clear to the audience that serious matters of the state are at hand. This is emphasized in by the way in which Antony and Caesar address each other; Antony speaks in short punchy sentences to match the graceless and formal tone of Caesar this contrast greatly with the drawn out and poetic way he addressed his lover Cleopatra.
The rapidity in their in speech as they both sit down serves as a way to heighten the tension and is an example of Shakespeare’s use of Rome to develop the far more serious themes of duty and responsibility in the play; the first thing Antony says when in front of Caesar is “Were we before our armies, and to fight/I should do thus. ” This reference to battle echoes the militaristic and formal tone in which Philo spoke at the beginning of the play, signifying a return to Roman ideals and hints at a realization of his duty as a Triumvir.