Throughout the play Shakespeare presents the emotion between Antony and Cleopatra in many different ways that could be interpreted as love, or perhaps lust and nothing more. Antony is shown to be besotted whilst Cleopatra is seen as a woman of ‘infinite variety’ and although high maintenance, in my opinion she did love Antony and seemed to do everything within her power to keep him with her. At the beginning of this play we see Cleopatra testing Antony’s love for her. ‘If it be love indeed, tell me how much. ‘ Suggests that Cleopatra is demanding of him, she enjoys the compliments paid to her, increasing her ego.
This gives the impression of Cleopatra being the dominant figure in their relationship. She continues her demanding nature with ‘I’ll set a bourn how far to be beloved! ‘ meaning she will limit how far she is prepared to be loved. Antony’s response that ‘then thou must needs find out now heaven, new earth’ shows that as far as he can be concerned there is absolutely no limit that can be defined by human knowledge or experience. ‘Let Rome in Tiber melt’ shows Antony declaring that his love is so strong that he is prepared to ignore Caesar’s demands and his roman duties in order to stay with her.
This declaration of his love creates an image to the audience that Antony is actually in love with her. A further example of his understanding of his roman duties can be seen later on when he announces ‘these strong Egyptian fetters I must break or lose myself in dotage’ and then again later when speaking to Enobarbus he says ‘I must from this enchanting queen break off’. When not with Cleopatra he appears to be regretting his position in Egypt, this suggests that it may just be lust he is feeling towards the Egyptian queen.He realises that his infatuation with Cleopatra is going to cause problems back in Rome. He also seems to realise that it is not love, and perhaps she is not worth staying away from Rome and his duties. ‘She is cunning past mans thought’ shows that he can see how clever she is and perhaps playing games with him to keep him in Egypt with her.
In act I scene III Cleopatra is warned by her attendant Charmian not to pressure Antony too much to stay in Egypt. ‘Madam, me thinks if you did love him dearly, you do not hold the method to enforce the like from him’.Cleopatra is seen to be unconvinced but reluctantly and possibly in the spirit of political correctness she persuades him to leave and he equally reluctantly agrees. ‘The strong necessity of time commands our services a while; but my full heart remains in use with you’.
Back in Alexandria with Antony away, Cleopatra bemoans his loss, ‘give me to drink mandrgora that I might sleep out this great gap of time my Antony is away. ‘ She is disconsolate and refuses any distraction because she wants to wallow in her unhappiness.However even when separated Antony still finds time to send Cleopatra a token of his undying love, a great pearl, and instructs his messenger to ‘say the firm roman to the great Egyptian sends the treasure of an oyster… ‘.
From this she determines that she will write to him everyday. This dedication gives the impression that Cleopatra does in fact love Antony and although he isn’t with her she is willing to write and keep in contact. This shows that it was not just a short fling whilst he was in Egypt. Throughout the play Enobarbus speaks mainly in prose and is always seen as straight talking, to the point and truthful.However in act II scene II Enobarbus speaks of how Antony and Cleopatra both met, and seems to be quite entranced by her himself and cannot be persuaded that they should be apart. He describes her godlike qualities in huge detail and speaks of her servants as ‘Nereids, so many mermaids’, emphasising her beauty in comparison. The speech appeals to all five senses, ‘the silken tackle swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands’ applies not only to the image of flowing silk, but to the touch of it as well.A strange invisible perfume’ is said to be smelt and ‘she makes hungry where most she satisfies’ shows how she is different from other women, captivating.
This also applies to the fourth sense of taste, and the final sense is appealed to by ‘whistling to the air’. The combination of the five senses gives the audience a very clear image of the event and shows how enchanting Cleopatra’s persona is. Shakespeare uses the antithesis of ‘a burnish’d throne, burn[ing] on the water’ giving the impression of enchantment and impossibility, everything Cleopatra appears to be.The final part of his speech is probably one of the most memorable throughout the play, ‘age does not wither her, nor custom stale’ enhances the idea of her ‘infinite variety’ that appears to have Antony besotted. ‘The holy priests bless her when she is riggish’ shows that she can do no wrong and ‘vilest things become themselves in her’ shows that she is extraordinary, different than any other woman.
Having Enobarbus describe her in this way to the other Romans who were being very blunt, and mocking; ‘she made great Caesar lay his sword to bed: he plough’d her… shows that Enobarbus obviously has a very high opinion of her, which would be transferred to him from Antony.This shows that Enobarbus must think that it’s love. Enobarbus is used as a dramatic device to portray the way Antony sees Cleopatra, he speaks in iambic pentameter, when usually his speech is in prose. After making such a complimentary and lyrical speech about Cleopatra Mecaenas says ‘if beauty, wisdom, modesty can settle the heart of Antony, Octavia is a blessed lottery to him’.
In comparison to Enobarbus’s speech this makes Octavia seem boring, ordinary, and gives Cleopatra an extraordinary quality.This just emphasises that Cleopatra would be the only one for Antony, and the qualities that most men would look for in a woman seem inferior to the virtues Cleopatra possesses. On being informed by a very reluctant messenger that Antony is ‘bound unto Octavia’, Cleopatra is horrified, unbelieving and seemingly quite distraught, contributing to the argument that she did indeed feel such affection for Antony. She displays a very angry persona when speaking to the messenger, ‘I’ll spurn thine eyes like balls before me’ is just one of the threats made to him.
This displays of anger shows the upset she feels about the turn of events. Cleopatra is understandably jealous of her new rival Octavia of whom she knows very little about and demands details of her height, hair colour and her facial features – ‘report the feature of Octavia, her years, her inclination, let him not leave out the colour of her hair. ‘ Cleopatra is further distressed in act III scene III when the messenger’s opinions of Octavia are reported back, almost all of which are favourable, whereas Cleopatra would prefer her to be a hideous harridan-like dwarf.After the sea battle which Antony had entered into against better judgement, he and Cleopatra are reunited and again he declares his feelings towards her ‘Egypt, thou knew’st too well my heart was to thy rudder tied by the strings..
. ‘ Antony could not keep himself away from Cleopatra and failed to remain faithful to Octavia, risking his alliance with Caesar and consequently his life.Soon after however Antony walks in on what he perceives as Cleopatra being unfaithful to him and loses his temper, ‘All is lost; this foul Egyptian hath betrayed me’ and his following insults such as ‘triple-turn’d whore! shows that he is deeply troubled by this, he feels as if his love has been betrayed by her and the extent of his anger gives the audience the impression that he has been hurt, suggesting his trust, and maybe even his heart have been broken. Cleopatra is then seen as beside herself with grief, believing that Antony has turned against her and bids her servant to inform Antony, ‘go tell him I have slain myself; say that the last word I spoke was Antony. ‘ Cleopatra is trying to provoke a response out of Antony; she appears to be testing his love, much as she did towards the beginning of the play.She wants to know if Antony still has such feelings for her or if she’s lost him forever.
Antony has continued talking to Eros about how betrayed he feels by her, ‘she, Eros, has pack’d cards with Caesar, and false-play’d my glory unto an enemies triumph? ‘ However once he learns the news of Cleopatra’s apparent death he appears distraught, ‘the sevenfold shield of Ajax cannot keep the battery from my heart’ and concludes that the only way to stay with his love is to follow her in death, ‘for with a wound I must be cur’d. , much like in other Shakespearean plays such as Romeo and Juliet a misunderstanding and the devotion to their love has caused the tragic end to the lovers lives. In this case Antony has been misinformed of his beloved’s death and attempts to take his own life but messes up in the process. ‘His death upon us, but not dead.
‘This gives the two lovers a final chance to speak, at which point Antony appears concerned about her safety after he departs; ‘one word, sweet queen: of Caesar seek your honour, with your safety. Despite their tiff before, now he realises she’s alive all he appears to be anxious about is her. Watching out for her safety, even when dying, I believe shows that Antony at least cared deeply, and loved Cleopatra.
As Cleopatra learns what her fate at Caesar’s hands may be, she continues to excel the virtues of Antony, ‘I dream’d there was an emperor Antony: – O, such another sleep, that I might see but such another man! ‘ The passion she appears to have whilst talking of Antony leads the audience to believe she had such feelings for him.At this point, Caesar threatens her that unless she accedes to his demands all will go badly for her and her family; ‘by taking Antony’s course, you shall bereave yourself of my good purposes, and put your children to that destruction which I’ll guard them from’. Even with the threat to her children, she still takes her own life, although it is debatable why. There is the possibility of her loss of Antony and following him to death, or due to the fact that she realises that she will be made a mockery of in Rome, displayed as a trophy, her pride won’t allow that to happen, hence her suicide.
Whilst preparing for her death she tells Charmian ‘go fetch my best attires; – I am again for Cydnas to meet Mark Antony’. This clearly shows that whatever anguish she was feeling, her overriding desire was to be re-united with her one true love. The final point I will touch on is Caesars reaction to Cleopatra’s death, he announces ‘she shall be buried by her Antony’. This tells the Audience that Caesar believes himself that the emotion between them was love.He also shows respects to their love with ‘our army shall in solemn attend this funeral’. In essence, Shakespearean tragedies were never designed to allow true love to run smooth.
With Antony and Cleopatra it is hard to conclude other than that their grand romance was doomed due to outside factors. The global ambitions of two great empires provided the backdrop whereby interference by malicious, self-serving, often malevolent personal ambitions of others could adversely affect the main protagonists of this play.This outside interference should also be coupled to the individuals own loyalties to their countries, and in Antony’s case, to Caesar. In themselves these loyalties are entirely laudable but contributed significantly to the personal disasters that where to follow.
In summary Antony and Cleopatra both appeared to be infatuated, and possibly in love with each other and each took their own lives in order to be together in the next world if not this.