Consider the role and function of Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra Enobarbus is a vital character and a key element to the success of the play. Emrys Jones view on Enobarbus is that he is “the plays strongest supporting character and structural device of great importance to the plays dramatic effect. ” He is portrayed in many forms, honest, likable, high ranking solider, “he is of note” trustworthy and a true friend to Antony. Enobarbus and Antony share a deep friendship.
Antony confides in Enobarbus allowing him to speak freely and honestly. When Antony tells Enobarbus Fulvia is dead he replies with “Why, sir, give the gods a thankful sacrifice” showing Enobarbus freedom of speech in private. Enobarbus has to be told his place more than once within the play “Thou art only a soldier” making him unpredictable to the audience. A function of Enobarbus is to help the audience form views on other characters such as Octavia and Caesar he also conveys the nature of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra.
When Antony discusses with Enobarbus leaving for Rome and how Cleopatra will react Enobarbus speaks as if he is talking from experience. “Cleopatra, catching but the least noise of this, dies instantly; I have seen her die twenty times upon far poorer moment”. This is not what Antony wanted to hear, Enobarbus tells antony the effect his leaving will have on Cleopatra, it also lets the audience know that Cleopatra often over reacts and is very dramatic when things don’t go her way. Enobarbus is also seen as a realist and a cynic for instance his caustic joke about “horses and mares” serving together. owever he can’t just be seen as a cynical blunt soldier, we also see his own personal struggle in coming to a decision as to whether or not to desert Antony, giving the audience a deeper understanding of Enobarbus love for Antony and showing the audience that Antony is blinded by love for Cleopatra and not thinking as the great leader Antony once was. His cynicism also highlights Antony’s naivety, demonstrating how Shakespeare use Enobarbus as a foil to Antony in the play, which this essay will explore later.
Enobarbus speaks the truth. Wilson Knight states Enobarbus often sees the truth whilst his superiors blunder at cross-purposes. His opinions are spoken bluntly and sometimes at inappropriate times and sometimes caustic. He joins in with the crowd both in Rome and Egypt. He first appears in the play with the soothsayer, enjoying the company of Cleopatra’s maids showing the audience that he can fit into both geographical parts of the play with ease and confidence.
Although he is portrayed as a professional soldier he enjoys pleasure too, “Most of our fortunes be drunk to bed” he is sociable and humorous and when he sees Cleopatra coming he jokes “hush here come Antony. ” Although he enjoys a drink he is serious when he is needed for military duty and takes the view work before pleasure keeping within the Roman ideas of conduct. Wilson Knight states “Enobarbus is the moral centre of the play and through him shows that loyalty and the power of love overshadows common sense and logical reasoning”.
There are four main functions of Enobarbus within the play. He is used as a chorus for example in commenting on the reconciliation of Antony and Caesar and Antony’s marriage to Octavia. Traditionally Shakespeare would use the chorus role as more of a secondary character to give the audience an insight into what they should expect throughout the play and create picture like images so that the audience can appreciate the scenes.
However Enobarbus role as chorus is expanded, in this play he is a vital character with his actions earning him admiration from the audience. As a vital secondary character he appears often not in the sense of activity but mainly as a commentator. Evangeline O’Connor states that; “Enobarbus seems designed in part to serve as the organ and mouth piece of the author’s judgement respecting the other persons; so that in him we have at once a character and commentary”. He moulds the view of the audience, becoming their eyes within the play.
He exposes other characters as well as their traits and the general atmosphere along with surroundings and background information. Enobarbus is also used as a foil to Antony and as a guide to other characters through his comments and observations. He also foretells future events highlighting his prophetic function within the play one example of this is when he talks of Antony “will do his Egyptian dish again. Then shall the sighs of Octavia blow the fire up in Caesar” Enobarbus rightly predicts Antony’s down fall due to his marriage to Octavia. That the marriage to Octavia will lead to greater dissension” as well as “Antony will ever leave Cleopatra” His ability to be correct in his predictions gains the trust of the audience and we become to rely upon Enobarbus for the truth as well as insight to other characters. Caesar also sees Enobarbus as trustworthy that speaks the truth, when Caesar says “I do not much dislike the matter but the manner of his speech”. Enobarbus is heartbroken after his desertion of Antony and when the ealisation of the mistake he has made in changing side’s sets in, a sense of guilt envelopes Enobarbus. intensified by Antony’s magnanimous gesture. “This blows my heart” and as the grief overcomes Enobarbus it leads him to commit suicide regarded by the Romans and Egyptians as the most honourable death. The fact that Enobarbus chose to die in a ditch illustrates that he was not a hypocrite: he felt he was not worthy of a heroic soldier’s death. In Enobarbus death we lose that valuable and reliable source of sound and truth and commentator on events.
However Enobarbus death is a prelude to Antony’s death mainly because he has acted as a foil to Antony. The audience also become to view Antony as a heroic character, generous and loyal because of the remorse Enobarbus displays in his death scenes “O Antony, nobler than my revolt is famous forgive me in thine own particular” in Enobarbus death he learns something about himself that love and loyalty are more important than war and politics and that he cannot live with the guilt of his actions upon these realisations makes him the noblest of all characters.
Enobarbus is used to relay critical comments and narrative detail such as the most famous speech in the play when Cleopatra first met Antony “the barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, burned on water. ” The fact Enobarbus has the most famous speech in the play is significant, a loyal blunt soldier who has the ability to use such words of poetry shows how diverse he is but also how fascinating Cleopatra is, that he can rise to such heights of poetry.
He awakes the audience’s senses with so much detail that the audience can visualise the scene and settings and even smell the perfumed sails that “the winds were love sick with them” with this Enobarbus tries to show Maecenas and Agrippa why the great Antony would fall for this bewitching women and risk losing everything. Graham Bradshaw states “Enobarbus great speech on Cleopatra shows how he responds – like Antony and his great predecessors –to Cleopatra’s power to provoke desire and compel the imagination. His death highlights Antony’s nobility and generosity because even though Enobarbus left Antony, Antony still shows his love and loyalty by sending “his bounty over plus”. It could be argued that in his death Enobarbus reaches tragic heights and could be seen as a hero in the play. This however devalues Caesars character telling us he has seen Caesars treatment of other deserters such as Alexas which resulted in his death. “For his pains Caesar has hanged him” This essay has shown that Enobarbus though considered a econdary role is in fact a character of great importance. He creates laughter, sympathy and understanding throughout the play and is vital to the audience. He makes us question even the simplest things and of course the bigger matters in question. The gentle side of his death and the remorse felt by him captures the audience’s hearts. The friendship and love shared by Enobarbus and Antony from the start, his acceptance of Cleopatra demonstrates all the things associated with Enobarbus character, honest, loyal, and trustworthy.
The poem written by D. J Enright sums up Enobarbus “Enobarbus, wine-bearded captain you are the hero of my play”. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Emrys Jones scenic Form in Shakespeare (oxford 1971) [ 2 ]. Act 4 sc 10 line 38 p107 [ 3 ]. Act 1 sc 2 line 164 p107 [ 4 ]. Act 1 sc 2 line 164 p10 [ 5 ]. act 1 sc 2 line 143 p9 [ 6 ]. Act 3 sc 7 line 7 p70 [ 7 ]. G. Wilson Knight The diadem of love (the imperial theme) (London 1931) [ 8 ]. Act 1 sc 2 line 45 p5 [ 9 ]. Act 1 sc 2 line 77 p6 [ 10 ]. G.
Wilson Knight The diadem of love (the imperial theme) (London 1931) [ 11 ]. Evangeline O’Connor. J. D Morris (the works of William Shakespeare) (vol 7) (1901) [ 12 ]. Act 2 sc 7 line 124 p48 [ 13 ]. Act 2 sc 2 line 117 p29 [ 14 ]. Act 4 sc 7 line 35 p102 [ 15 ]. Act 4 sc 2 line 21 p106 [ 16 ]. Act 2 sc 2 line 200 p32 [ 17 ]. act 2 sc 2 line203 p32 [ 18 ]. Graham Bradshaw, (shakespeares scepticism) Havester press, (1987) [ 19 ]. Act 4 sc 6 line 23 p101 [ 20 ]. Act 4 sc 5 line15 p101 [ 21 ]. D. J Enright poem about Enobarbus