Antony and Cleopatra

The representations and interplay of types of power: In Shakespeares famous play Antony and Cleopatra, the powerful are portrayed including their personalities, their reactions to other powerful figures and the interplay of these powers as the characters interact.
Antonys Power: Shakespeare uses Rome and Egypt as binary opposites not just to reflect qualities inherent in the two places, but the changes that come upon Antony depending on which place he is in. The changes in Antonys behaviour and power-usage patterns can be seen through Shakespeares constant juxtaposition of the Egyptian and Roman worlds. Antonys behaviour tends to change as in the exotic place that is Egypt Antony is allowed to escape from his Roman self : “I will to EgyptI’th’ east my pleasure lies.2.3.38-40. The word pleasure indicates that Egypt has a sexual appeal to him in the form of Cleopatra. He adores his role as king in Egypt, being the self-indulgent lover of Cleopatra. However in Rome, Antony must attend to his political ambitions, duty to administration, his citizens and soldiers. These are duties he does not wish to be burdened with: “Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch / Of the ranged empire fall! Antony describes his feelings while in Egypt as a hyperbole, which reflects how his behaviour becomes irrational.
Moving on to Cleopatras Power, it can be seen that she uses her coercive sexual power to entice and manipulate Antonys behaviour and decisions, inevitably ending in the weakening of their relationship. Cleopatra knows her powers of manipulation: “I drunk him to bed;/ Then put my tires and mantles on him, whilst I wore his sword Philippan.2.5.21-23. She makes a mockery of him as he is the Philippan victor that is metaphorically stripped of his sword and therefore his political and sexual power, by a woman. She is described by him in a metaphor, as an enchanting queen which connotes a sense of uncontrolled mesmerisation with a powerful figure. To those removed from the situation, such as Caesar, she is described as a whore and Antony’s life with her is full of lascivious wassails demonstrating the wanton behaviour that Cleopatra has almost imposed on Antony. He describes their inversion of sexual roles saying Antony is not more manlike/ Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy/ more womanly than he 1.3.4-7. Parallel to Cleopatras previous remark, Antony ironically comments after fleeing Actium: “O thou vile lady! She has robbed me of my sword,” the sword being a symbol of his sexuality and military prowess.


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