How does Shakespeare use his contrast between Rome and Egypt to present the themes in Antony and Cleopatra? In the play Antony and Cleopatra there are two different worlds, Rome and Egypt. Throughout Antony and Cleopatra, we see the hard-working political life of Rome and the luxurious and pleasurable life of Egypt. The effect of the difference between the two places on the main characters, and on the plot, is a key theme throughout the play. Rome is a world in which men compete for power in a high stakes game without clear rules. The eastern world of Egypt is, of course, totally different.
Shakespeare’s deception of sexuality in Egypt is presented as entirely natural. There is no sign of sin attached to this love unlike there would be from Rome. We can see that Shakespeare clearly wants us to be able to see the political and love side of either of these countries. The split between Rome and Egypt is very controversial as the Romans are so fascinated with Egypt that they cannot leave it alone. This could be the reason that the three greatest Romans, Antony Caesar and Pompey have all had sexual experience with the queen of Egypt.
He uses the contrast in difference between the two countries very well and this makes the main themes in the production stand out. In Egypt, women talk openly about explicit sexuality, they express their sexual feelings, joke about sexual matters, and establish a close female community, sexuality in Egypt is closely linked to play and to feasting. I have chosen to explore the theme of love first. As I feel that love is represented very differently in the two different countries. There is love in Egypt, and there is hate in Rome.
I feel that this is the way the two countries are presented as it is separating the countries and showing us how different the two actually are. We see the difference between the two first as we see in the first few pages how both Antony and Cleopatra show their love for one another in very subtle but yet strong words and they don’t mind displaying their emotions in front of other people, for example when Cleopatra says, ” If it be love indeed, tell me how much”. And we then get a reply from Antony in which he says, “There’s beggary in the love that can be reckoned.
” and Cleopatra then replies again with “I’ll set a bourn how far to be beloved”. These first few lines from these main characters are very controversial as they are very in depth and we don’t actually no too much about what is happening in these first few lines. They are all about love as well, which is a huge difference to when we see the first scene in Rome when Pompey, Menas and Menecrates march in, in a warlike manner. Just by them doing this we can tell that there isn’t as much love here and that they are coming here to start a war.
And when Pompey is talking about the three kings of Rome, “Mark Antony In Egypt sits at dinner and will make no wars without doors. Caesar gets money where he loses his hearts. Lepidus flatters both, of both is flattered;” by him saying this we can see that there is already hate here and that Pompey is already talking about how he can get onto Rome and attack the three of them. This is showing us how much hate is already there, and this is only the first couple of pages and Pompey is already talking about war and who he wants to attack and how he wants to attack them.
The difference in the two places so far is that in Egypt the words are said a lot more softly and a lot more love like, whereas in Rome the words are very harsh and all about war, fighting and violence. Shakespeare has done this on purpose as he wants his audience to view the two countries in a different style. Shakespeare describes the countries in this way as he wants the audience to know where they are in the play and he wants them to know what is happening. By him doing this it shows us a clear distinction between the two countries.
Shakespeare sets it so that each Act is set in Rome and then Egypt, over and over. So that he is setting us in a loving mood and then he switches it to hate, and vice versa. This is very effective as it shows what is happening in both countries. Antony and Caesar then sort pout their differences and it ends with Rome being happy. Shakespeare quickly switches the love and hate around so that love is in Rome and hate in is Egypt. Lepidus then says “Happily Amen! ” and by him saying this we can see that a truce has been called and we get a glimmer that everything may well be ok in Rome.
But whilst all of this is happening Shakespeare was turning the love from Egypt into hate. He does this slowly as he lets the scene set in and then the messenger who is reporting from Rome says, “Caesar and he are greater friends than ever. ” And Cleopatra sees this as a good thing but the messenger says “But yet, madam” and this is where we can see that something is going to be said that Cleopatra doesn’t like. Cleopatra then says “I do not like ‘But yet’; it does allay the good precedence.
” Shakespeare uses this scene very well to change the air from love to hate, and he does this so strongly that the audience can feel this change and they don’t want to feel hate, so here he is starting to go against the audience. Another key theme that I have picked out in the production is that of Sadness, grief and bereavement. These play a big part in the contrast that Shakespeare uses to separate Rome and Egypt. In Rome Grief and bereavement is shown a lot more harsh, and it is like serious situations don’t matter as much as they do in Egypt.
For example Death is seen as very serious and there is a huge dramatic few scenes on both Antony and Cleopatra’s deaths, we can tell this as when Antony dies Cleopatra says “The crown o’the’ earth doth melt. My lord! ” here we can tell that she is talking about Antony and she is saying that because he is dying it means that the earth may as well melt, and she then lets out a cry for her lord. We see the how Egypt is a lot more emotional when Cleopatra starts to faint and says ” Beneath the visiting moon” here she is pretending to be dying because deep down she really wants to die because the love of her life has just passed away.