Powerply: Antony and Cleopatra

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Antony and Cleopatra Essay Question: How is power play illustrated in the behaviour of Antony and Cleopatra and Antony and Caesar in Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’? In your answer make close reference to the text. (600-800 words) The strength of the powerplay used in Shakespeare’s play ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ becomes evident in many different situations as characters assert themselves over others to create the outcome they desire.

In ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ this dominance is displayed in multiple relationships, however the two main power struggles exist between Antony and Cleopatra in their relationship and Antony and Caesar in their struggle to gain power. This use of power to control another eventually ends in tragedy with the deaths of both Antony and Cleopatra and in the process their devoted servants. “ In Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra quite often the use of power comes from Cleopatra manipulating Antony to agree with the way she wants events to occur.

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The utilization of powerplay between these two characters begins very early in the play, first showing itself in Act 1 Scene 1, when Antony refuses to hear the Roman messenger and to instead spend time with Cleopatra. This is the first indication of how strong a hold Cleopatra has over Antony to make him reject his Roman duties as a Triumvir. However, Cleopatra’s influence over Antony can only extend so far and the limits of her control are shown in Act 1 Scene 3.

She aims to prevent Antony from announcing his return to Rome and at the same time to convince him to stay, first by feigning illness then taunting him. When Antony finally does state his motives for leaving Cleopatra, to attend Fulvia’s funeral, she increases her taunting notably declaring: O most false love! Where will be the sacred vials thou shouldst fill ” With sorrowful water? Now I see, I see, In Fulvia’s death how mine received shall be. (Act 1, Scene 3.

Lines 63-65) In stating this Cleopatra aims to make Antony feel guilty to leave her and instead attend the funeral of Fulvia. By insinuating that he does not care for her, Cleopatra has unintentionally brought about the opposite of what she wished to achieve in making Antony stay. Here Antony turns the argument around and is able to manipulate Cleopatra accordingly, by threatening to leave Cleopatra with the possibility of not coming back. This is too much for her to take and so she changes tactics and begs for forgiveness and recognizing that Antony has his Roman duties to attend to.

No other significant scenes arise until Cleopatra’s hold over Antony is again shown in Act 3 Scene 11 when Cleopatra does not even intentionally manipulate Antony and he follows her from battle back to the relative safety of Egypt. This scene emphasises the hold that Antony is under as he has abandoned his Roman duty, which was supposedly the most important thing in his life, and has replaced it with the love of a ‘gypsy’, as many Romans including Caesar, refer to Cleopatra. Antony’s statement “My heart was to thy rudder tied by th’strings… (Act 3, Scene 11. Line 55) shows how he himself now recognises the strength of his love to Cleopatra and that he would follow her anywhere. Much of the powerplay present between Antony and Caesar is discovered through use of conversations with other characters and not through direct conversation between Antony and Caesar themselves. Caesar’s dislike for the amount of time Antony is spending in Egypt with Cleopatra is first brought up in Act 1 Scene 4 were it becomes apparent that he is also losing respect for the much admired Roman general Mark Antony.

The only way Caesar accepts Antony and his apology is by Antony agreeing to a marriage with his sister Octavia. This suggestion is made by Agrippa, whose intention is to bring the two men closer together and to settle their dispute. This works in Caesar’s favour. If Antony declines the proposal then it could be seen that he was rejecting his Roman duty and instead putting his love of Cleopatra in the way, the other alternative is that the marriage between Antony and Octavia will not prosper and Caesar can use Antony’s rejection of Octavia to wage war against him.

However, Antony finds an excuse for waging war against Caesar because Caesar has fought and killed Pompey without consulting his fellow triumvirs despite having signed an agreement in Act 2 Scene 6. Further, Caesar has imprisoned Lepidus putting Antony in more doubt about Caesars intentions and whether or not he will try to take Antony out of power as well. Therefore, Antony returns to Egypt where he has the relative safety of distance and the time to gather an army to match Caesar’s. For Caesar this is the final straw and he takes Antony’s flight as a sign to begin a war and overtake him.

Antony decides after some encouragement from Cleopatra to fight Caesar by sea to prove that he is able to meet his power on both land and sea and is therefore a better general than him. This however backfires when he flees the battle and loses to Caesar. From the above, it can be seen that many aspects of the play ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ include powerplay, using it constantly for characters to gain the upper hand. The result of such ruthless manipulation ends in the tragic suicide of Antony and Cleopatra, leaving the rule of the Roman Empire in Octavius Caesar’s hands. 828 words

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Powerply: Antony and Cleopatra. (2018, Jun 15). Retrieved from


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