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  1. #1
    Salome.. smilingtearz's Avatar
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    Exclamation Help!

    Any ideas about how to start and go forth about an assignment on>
    Antony and Cleopatra: a Political play
    ...please help!!...if possible send me links on gud essays on the same topic

  2. #2

    Politics in A & C

    ASSESS THE IMPACT AND IMPORTANCE OF THE POLITICAL BACKGROUND TO "ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA".

    The events of "Antony and Cleopatra" take place in the setting of a power struggle for domination of a large proportion of what was, at the time, the known world. Success in this power struggle would seem to require a readiness to lie, break agreements, and to manipulate one's friends and family. This cynically amoral approach can be seen in action, in characters and in language.

    The lie is the political weapon most readily to hand and Caesar, the consummate politician, uses it freely. He sends Thidias to Cleopatra, telling him to make whatever offer will win her over, having no intention of honouring it. He lies to Cleopatra in the final scene, assuring her she will not be used in his triumphant return to Rome. He breaks his agreement by making war on Pompey and goes on to arrest Lepidus, the third member of the triumvirate, on the grounds that he "was grown too cruel". This is obviously a trumped up reason to answer Antony's protest - it is not credible of the man we have seen in the play.

    Not only Caesar breaks faith, however; it would appear that most members of the political world are prepared to do so. In Act II scene 7, Menas suggests to Pompey that they cut the galley adrift and then cut the throats of "These three world-sharers" to make "All there is, thine". This is a party where Pompey is the host! Pompey's response is not one of moral outrage, but a rueful irritation:

    "Ah, this thou shouldst have done,
    And not have spoken on't."

    Having had his offer to cut the guests' throats turned down, Menas decides Pompey is not worth following any more and goes off in disgust for another drinking bout with his old acquaintance, Enobarbus - who would have been one of the victims!

    Relationships play a similar secondary role for Caesar. Although fond of his sister, he is ready to use her in marriage, either to cement an alliance or to prove the cause for breaking it - he wins both ways, a situation he likes to be in. And Antony is in many ways considered to be as politically devious as Caesar - to illustrate this is the point of Act III scene 1, which seems at first sight so curiously to appear amidst all the negotiating and bargaining. Here Ventidius, Antony's lieutenant, is fighting on his behalf in a corner of the Empire. The credit for his victory will go to Antony; he dare not pursue his victories further for fear of making Antony jealous - as happened to Sossia. While Ventidius does the fighting, Antony drinks on Pompey's Galley and takes the credit. This latter scene in fact (Act II scene 7) sums up what A C Bradley has called "the pettiness of the political arena" with its false camaraderie, its toasts and plotting, its drunken world leader (commented on even by the servants), all observed, with a distaste he tries to conceal, by the cold-eyed Caesar.

    Coldness and detachment would seem to be prerequisites for political success in this world in which the weakest go - or are sent - to the wall. Apart from his sister, Caesar seems to have no human fondness for anyone. He respects Antony's past achievements but his description of him as an "old ruffian" is repellant. He is also very efficient, has a superb intelligence service and moves in battle to take Toryne with a speed which astonishes everyone. He is cautious and calculating, keeping detailed records, like any Civil Service Department, which he can produce to justify his actions (Act V scene 1 lines 73 to end). When he feasts his army (Act IV scene 1) it is not, like Antony in the following scene, to be "bounteous at our meal" but after careful calculation that:

    1) they have sufficient supplies and
    2) the men have by their recent victory, "earned the waste".

    The attributes of political success are reflected in the language used by the characters. Caesar's is often cold, flat, lacking in life or the imagery which teems through that of Antony or Cleopatra. It is also curiously contorted or ambiguous at times, as if he is using words to conceal his meaning, or using them with great care in order not to be precise, so that he may at a later date put on them the interpretation which suits him. His conversation at his first meeting with Antony (Act II scene 2) illustrates this clearly, as it does also the differences between the two men. Antony begins directly and to the point:

    "I learn you take things ill which are not so,
    Or being, concern you not."

    Caesar's response to this is so convoluted, so full of subordinate clauses of "if", "should", and "when", that it is barely intelligible. Antony tries again, with another direct question; Caesar responds again, with "might" and "yet if". Similarly, his final comment on the lovers (Act V scene 2 lines 337-339) has at least two possible interpretations.

    A C Bradley suggests that what he calls "the pettiness of the political arena" by contrast makes the audience feel that the world is well lost for love-that Antony and Cleopatra are too noble for these sordid manoeuvrings and make the right choice in giving up political power. Certainly, in dramatic terms, Caesar is the loser; Cleopatra outwits him at the last and the audience value her and her lover, their warmth and their poetry, far beyond the successful Caesar. But as we have seen, Antony has many of the less reputable "political" qualities himself, and Cleopatra will lie and cheat to wriggle herself out of difficulty or to hang on to life until she is finally cornered. One certain effect of the political background is to emphasize at the same time both the size and smallness of the characters. Constant references to kingdoms and provinces of the Empire, references to classical gods, to sun and moon and planets, all help to establish that these people are the rulers of the world. At the same time, by their behaviour, which is on a less elevated, human scale, they are disrupting the world. Antony used kings as messengers, they have kissed away provinces. The political background emphasises both the magnitude and the humanity of the tragedy.

  3. #3
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Unnamable:

    Oustanding read of the play. Did you have this already written or did you just do this spontaneously? Only one thing to add, and that is how the political background, which Shakespeare at every turn emphizes, is critical to the Antony & Cleo characterization, their love, and finally their tradgedy. That's a large question that Silingtearz could take up for class. If she does, I hope she shares her answers here. I happen to love this play, but unfortunately gets overshadowed by the other great Shakespeare tradgedies.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  4. #4
    I am an English teacher who has taught this play (and most of the others) many times, so I had it on my computer. It doesn't represent my fullest thoughts on the play but I thought it would be a good essay-type response.
    Last edited by The Unnamable; 12-18-2005 at 07:21 PM.

  5. #5
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Thanks. I hope you hang around this forum. I enjoy intelligent discussions of literature.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  6. #6
    Salome.. smilingtearz's Avatar
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    thanks unnamable that was a great help...i wwas stills stuck with that question...one more thing , shuld i mention the relevance the play has as a continuation with Julius Ceaser?...i mean should i put that somewhere in the beginning?

    And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
    And Thou shalt not, writ over the door:
    So I turned to the Garden of Love,
    That so many sweet flowers bore. - "The Garden of Love", William Blake.

  7. #7
    The play isn’t a continuation of Julius Caesar, so there is little point in mentioning it, unless it is to make some pertinent, comparative point about the way power politics are dramatised. Why are you still stuck? The essay I posted is almost custom made. You can view the play as being about love or, more fruitfully I think, as an exploration of the nature of power politics. Personally, I like Octavius Caesar because he isn’t impressed by the charms of a selfish Cleopatra. Bad as the film version of the story with Burton and Taylor is, there is a nice line to Octavius from Rex Harrison’s Caesar: “When you die, Octavius, it is quite conceivable that you will do so without ever having lived.”

  8. #8
    Fingertips of Fury B-Mental's Avatar
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    Well, now I know where to go for answers for my Shakespeare, lol. Actually those days are long behind me. It was very nice of you to be so helpful to smilingtearz. If I didn't say it, I'm sure that logos would. Good luck with the assignment ST, or should I say, "Break a leg."
    "I am glad to learn my friend that you had not yet submitted yourself to any of the mouldy laws of Literature."
    -John Muir


    "My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends - It gives a lovely light"
    -Edna St. Vincent Millay

  9. #9
    Salome.. smilingtearz's Avatar
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    I think i'll finish my essay by today and submit it by tomorrow...though anymore ideas are always welcome...and thanx dr.unnamable...don't know why i felt like calling you Doctor...it just came "pop" into my mind

    and B-mental...umm... i think i've mentioned this on litnet a couple of times, but i don't mind repeating, could you please, please call me Eva...and not ST....a humble request....!

    thanx u guys!

    And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
    And Thou shalt not, writ over the door:
    So I turned to the Garden of Love,
    That so many sweet flowers bore. - "The Garden of Love", William Blake.

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