Antony and Caesar - Sample Essay

After this scene Antony and Caesar are part of a conflict, Enobarbus is present. At the end of this scene, when Antony has agreed to marry Caesar’s sister, Octavia, Enobarbus tells Maecenas and Agrippa of how Cleopatra wooed Antony. We hear a wonderful speech from Antony’s soldier, about how wonderful she is, he compares her to the love goddess, Venus: “The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne, Burn’d on the water; the poop was beaten gold; Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The winds were love-sick with them;” (line 200)

Shakespeare has given this speech to Enobarbus at this point in this play because we have to be reminded of how wonderful and beautiful Cleopatra is, and how Octavia will never compare to her. Shakespeare is presenting her as a goddess who is of a supernatural level so we get more of an impression to how wonderful she is. Shakespeare uses the next scene, Act 2: scene 3, to show us how boring and mundane Octavia is compared to Cleopatra. Shakespeare is presenting Cleopatra in a different way, by not showing her, but using someone else to her advantage.

Act 2: scene 5 is a long scene, in which we see another side to Cleopatra. At the beginning of this scene, we immediately see how different it is to Rome, which is very male and harsh, compared to Egypt, which is relaxed and feminine. The situation has changed: Cleopatra is now besotted with Antony: “Antonio’s dead! If thou say so, villain, Thou kill’st thy mistress;” (line 27) As we have seen before, she is melodramatic. Shakespeare has to present her in this way, as her personality cannot change completely when Antony is not in Egypt with her. In this scene, we learn that she is a ‘chatterbox’.

The messenger is trying to tell her that Antony is married, but Cleopatra will not let him, as she will not stop moaning about missing Antony, showing how much she misses him. This would be very suspenseful, as the audience would be very keen to learn how she will react when she learns of this news. Shakespeare portrays her character like this for dramatic suspense. When she does learn of his marriage, we see a different side to her: she is violent. It is not a great shock to us that she is violent, but she carried a knife in her robes, which portrays her as a woman with infinite variety:

“Rogue, thou hast lived too long! Draws a knife ” (line 73) This violence that Shakespeare has put into Cleopatra’s personality, makes us wonder how she treats Antony, and whether she is violent with him. She eventually calms down which shows her capricious nature. She is also melodramatic again. In this scene, Shakespeare has presented her as a different character. We have seen her in a different light, as she has been violent. She now desperately needs Antony, where as before Antony was besotted with her. Cleopatra has a type of weakness, which is unexpected.