Essay, Research Paper: Antony And Cleopatra

Shakespeare

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Nature, described as mysterious and secretive, is a recurrent theme throughout
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Cleopatra, the ill-fated queen of Egypt,
is both mysterious and secretive, and her emotional power is above and beyond
nature’s great strength. Whether described in a positive or in a negative
manner, both nature and Cleopatra are described as being “great natural
forces.” Throughout the first act, the two are compared and contrasted by
various characters in the play. The first act, set in Alexandria, Egypt, sets
the stage for the play and presents the majority of the actors. Scene two
introduces one of the major themes of the play, Nature. This raunchy, innuendo-
filled scene has two of Cleopatra’s close friends and one of Antony’s
discussing her and Antony’s life. Charmian, one of Cleopatra’s best friends,
Alexas, one of Cleopatra’s servants (as well as the link between her and
Antony), Enobarbus, one of Antony’s trusted Lieutenants, as well as a
Soothsayers are all present and discussing their fortunes. During this
discussion, the Soothsayer states, “ In Nature’s infinite book of secrecy/ A
little I can read” (I.ii.10-11). The Soothsayer explains to the others that
there is little she can do outside of not only her powers, but also what nature
allows her to. One of the first references to nature and the mystery that
revolves around it, this quote simply demonstrates how little power the people
have over something as great as nature. Nature and the elements surrounding it
are simply a mystery to the people of Rome. In his discussion with his
commanding Lieutenant, Enobarbus refers to Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt and
Antony’s soon-to- be lover, as a great natural force that is above nature’s
powers. In the second scene of the first act, Antony states, “She is cunning
past man’s thought” (I.ii.145). This statement is then followed by Enobarbus’
statement about Cleopatra: “…her passions are made of noth/ing but the
finest part of pure love. We cannot call her /winds and waters sighs and tears;
they are greater /storms and tempests than almanacs can re- port. This/ cannot
be cunning in her; if it be, she makes a show’r of /rain as well as Jove”
(I.ii.146-151). In this quote, Enobarbus shows great respect and admiration
towards Cleopatra. Not only does he defend her from Antony’s statement, but
also he regards her with such high esteem that he compares her to Jove, the
ruler of the gods in charge of rain, thunder, and lightning. In the latter part
of the play, Cleopatra affirms the claim made by Enobarbus stating that her
powers are greater that nature’s. In scene 13 of the third act, she states,
“Ah, dear, if I be so, / From my cold heart let heaven engender hail, / And
poison it in the source, and the first stone/ Drop in my neck;”
(III.xiii.158-161). In her discussion with Antony, Cleopatra is openly asserting
her “supernatural” powers that she believes she has. Not only does she
believe she has supernatural powers, but she also believes that she is Egypt.
Throughout the first act, various characters claim and make references to
Cleopatra as being “Egypt” itself. On page __________________. These claims
are later affirmed several times towards the end of the play. In his discussion
with Lepidus and Pompey, Antony states, “The higher Nilus swells. / The more
it promises,” (pg.56). In referring to Egypt and its conditions, Antony has
made the comparison between Cleopatra and Egypt. In this quote, Antony states
two things: That Egypt rises and falls along with Cleopatra, and Cleopatra is
comparable to the nature of Egypt. This statement not only makes the comparison
between Cleopatra and Egypt, but by Antony obliviously stating that Cleopatra
“is Egypt”, he reaffirms Cleopatra’s great natural strength. In
Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, nature, the elements surrounding it and
its mystery are continuously compared to Cleopatra. In several instances in the
book, we see Cleopatra’s strength over God’s natural powers. Throughout the
first act as well as in the latter acts of the novel, references are made to
both nature and to Cleopatra’s powers over it.
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