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Antony and Cleopatra Essay

Assignment id 1013273
Discipline Other
Assignment type Essay
Words 2913
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Joseph Innes How does Shakespeare present the sense of both opposites or polarities And what is the significance of them to the drama? William Shakespeare wrote Antony and Cleopatra about 1606, during the reign of King James ². The drama is a history, set in the time of the Roman Empire many centuries before it was composed and dependent on the well-documented history of Octavius Caesar, Marc Antony and Cleopatra. These personalities and their lifestyles were contained in mostly 1 record: Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, which was translated by Sir Thomas North in 1579. At the invention of the drama, Shakespeare kept very close to the plot of North's history though some characters like Enobarbus are mostly Shakespeare's creations. In the play, Shakespeare creates two entirely different, contradictory worlds where most if not all of the drama and stress is derived from, causing tension between people living in the two ideals of Rome and Egypt. From the very beginning among the topics of the play becomes quite evident to the audience, the conflict between Rome and Egypt. The 2 places signify a symbolic conflict of ideals in the drama. Rome is viewed as a position of honour and responsibility and taken very seriously, this can be revealed through the activities and behaviour of Caesar, a man with huge responsibilities, and even when his associates are still celebrating and getting drunk, he doesn't. As a comparison, Egypt is revealed as a place of indulgence and delight, shown that this time throughout Cleopatra's courtroom, in which it appears that the inhabitants do nothing but gratify themselves with games, sex and wine. These differences in ideals are so great that the people in Rome cure Antony's indulgence in Egypt with Cleopatra as a taboo "this is the news: he fishes, drinks, and wastes / The Lamps of night in revel"(1.4.4-5). Caesar's condemnation of Antony's behaviour is an example of how far he is despised for turning his back on Roman responsibility. This clash is in some ways an example of Elizabethan perceptions on the differences between East and West, an obstacle that is impossible for Antony and Cleopatra to conquer. Shakespeare personifies the two poles of the world since the individuals living there. Caesar is viewed as the embodiment of all Rome, together with his rigid sense of duty and honour, and Egypt is presented through Cleopatra with her excess and theatrical extravagance and free streaming passio...

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