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Do You Agree That "Shakespeare Is Especially Interested In Exposing The Human Frailty And Vulnerability Of Those Who Wield Great Political Power" In 'Antony And Cleopatra'?

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In the course of 'Antony and Cleopatra', Shakespeare examines all of the characters through their various emotions, and several in the different circumstances they are thrust into, giving the audience a unique, contemporary view of the Rulers of the Roman Empire at the time.

When the audience is told of how Cleopatra was first introduced to the Romans, through Enobarbus's speech (2:2), she is described as having "cloth-of-gold" and having "delicate cheeks". This long description of Cleopatra recounts how all of Alexandria flocked to the sea to gaze upon her, and how the wind itself would have gone had it not "made a gap in nature". The presence of Cleopatra, being able to draw hundreds to her by merely turning up on a barge, is obviously (as Plutarch described) "irresistible". She is also politically cunning, shown when she bargained with Caesar, asking for the Ptolomy namesake to be preserved within Egypt. This level of thought, whilst under extreme duress from Caesar to betray Antony, draws into question whether she truly loved Antony at all, or whether she was merely using him which would imply a manipulating, shrewd leader.

However, she is at times very insecure in herself. When she discovers that Antony has married Octavia she quickly questions Octavia's looks and composure, implying a severe level of insecurity in her own looks. It also implies she doesn't trust Antony, and finds it difficult to trust others, despite the fact that Antony has already declared that he would first let "the wide arch of the ranged empire fall" before he would stop loving her. One can perceive that her lack of trust in Antony, or even herself and her love and looks, is actually a level of manipulation where she has seduced Antony for him to do her bidding. She frequently needs reassurances of his love from the very beginning of the play, where she is annoyed at the level of control that she believes Fulvia and Caesar have over Antony. Again, this could be perceived as manipulation, where she is infuriating Antony (and thus manipulating him to her way of thinking). Either way, it either highlights her own insecurities, or the weakness in Antony's character to withstand her influence over him.

Later in the play, she loses control entirely and attacks a messenger delivering news of Antony's marriage to Octavia (2:5). She "hales him up and down" the stage, eventually drawing a knife at him, claming that he is a "rogue" and that he has "lived too long". This certainly supports the fact that Cleopatra is insecure in Antony's love for her, but also that she is losing her high level of control that is expressed through the play previously (which is shown through the tone of the conversations she is involved in, where she takes control of the situation and often manipulates them to her own means or refuses to let others speak). This scene is particularly humourous, and in Shakespeare's time would have kept the groundlings watching the play amused and happy. It also puts forth the serious point that the infallible messianic image that is originally portrayed by Enobarbus (in the barge scene, 2:2) and of her followers is just a false image of her, and she is simply a human being in a position of power, who loses control like any other person.

Antony is described as a god, or by similes with references to the gods. He is said to have been descended from Hercules himself, and is described as a "demi-Atlas" to the world. However, after Antony loses the battle of Actium he breaks down and cries; the antithesis of a godly image that he portrays to his followers. Antony is aware of his fall from grace though, claiming that his "very hairs do mutiny" between each other, with the old hairs arguing with the young (a metaphor for the self-conflict inside Antony, and his blaming himself for being both too reliant on past experience, but also for his "rashness" in the situation).

The idea of Antony being older than Caesar is referenced many times in the play, and there appears to be a level of insecurity in Antony over Caesar's arguably more powerful position in the Triumvirate, which is unexpected due to his young age. This is best shown when Cleopatra mentions Antony's "scarce-bearded leader" (1:1) to both antagonise and influence him. Antony's insecurity over the situation in the Triumvirate is ironic, as Antony frequently makes rash and naпve decisions in fighting Caesar, coming across as petty and childish, whilst Caesar makes quite intelligent decisions as if he had had many years of experience in fighting. This is shown when Antony challenges Caesar to fight one-on-one with him (when it is obvious that Antony would win), and then accepts Caesar's terms to battle him simply because Caesar "dares [him] to't", despite it being an appalling military decision (when Antony is by far the better military general).

In the same way that Cleopatra loses patience and attacks the messenger, Antony loses control when he catches Caesar's messenger, Thidias, flirting with Cleopatra. Antony has him whipped, but is so infuriated he keeps Thidias alive to show his scars to Caesar and claims Caesar can whip one of his old allies in retaliation. This attack on Thidias is more sinister than Cleopatra's attack on the messenger, implying that Antony is desperate to maintain a level of control over people, in a way that can be recounted to others (thus making it seem he has lost no power at all). The fact that Antony has lost nearly everything at this point, and is offering his "treasure" to his remaining friends and telling them to "fly and make [their] peace with Caesar", is both dramatic and poignant. However, it is also key in showing us how the effects on someone who loses everything (particularly control and authority) is damaging to their persona, implying that they are merely a shadow of what they once were- similar to highlighting how the portrayal of the people in positions of authority are false, and they are human after all. Historically, it shows how fluid political power was at the time, how easily it can be manipulated, and the damaging consequences it can have on close allies and friends (such as Enobarbus's abandonment of Antony, and Cleopatra's willingness to betray Antony once he has fallen from his position in power and society, and lost his military prowess).

Looking at Pompey's character, it is easier to asses the situations that surround him, than Pompey himself. When the Triumvirs are all on Pompey's boat, they were within easy reach of Pompey's crew, which was a surprisingly vulnerable position that they put themselves

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"Do You Agree That "Shakespeare Is Especially Interested In Exposing The Human Frailty And Vulnerability Of Those Who Wield Great Political Power" In 'Antony And Cleopatra'?" Essays24.com. 01 2011. 2011. 01 2011 <https://www.essays24.com/essay/Do-You-Agree-That-Shakespeare-Is-Especially-Interested/27784.html>.

"Do You Agree That "Shakespeare Is Especially Interested In Exposing The Human Frailty And Vulnerability Of Those Who Wield Great Political Power" In 'Antony And Cleopatra'?." Essays24.com. Essays24.com, 01 2011. Web. 01 2011. <https://www.essays24.com/essay/Do-You-Agree-That-Shakespeare-Is-Especially-Interested/27784.html>.

"Do You Agree That "Shakespeare Is Especially Interested In Exposing The Human Frailty And Vulnerability Of Those Who Wield Great Political Power" In 'Antony And Cleopatra'?." Essays24.com. 01, 2011. Accessed 01, 2011. https://www.essays24.com/essay/Do-You-Agree-That-Shakespeare-Is-Especially-Interested/27784.html.