The relationship between Antony and Cleopatra shifts the balance of power in the Mediterranean from East to West. As A. C. Bradley suggests, ‘The love of Antony and Cleopatra is destructive. ‘ In Act 111 Scene 11, a despairing Antony appears to think similarly, ‘I have fled myself, for indeed I have lost command. ‘ From the beginning of the play, Rome disapproves of Antony’s relationship with the ‘gypsy’ Cleopatra, stating that he has become no more than a ‘strumpets fool.
‘ This is illuminating to observe, for it could be suggested that their relationship is based upon the physicality of love. Even writers as diverse as Dante and Montaigne concur in seeing the lovers justly confounded victims of their own desire. However, A. C. Bradley’s observation is not necessarily accurate. Antony and Cleopatra sacrifice everything for the sake of their relationship, and the two lovers eventually commit suicide. Before dying, Cleopatra says, ‘Venus from heaven was come on earth below.
Ever as she went at first to meet her love, so goes she now at last again to find him. ‘ A real sense of pathos is created within these lines, for it proves that Cleopatra died in order to be reunited with her love. This also emphasises the simile likening Cleopatra to Venus, which is repeated several times throughout the play. Even in the first scene, Antony’s exalted language when he talks of ‘new heaven, new earth’ and speaks of, ‘the nobleness of life’ suggests something more than a sordid affair of lust.
Regardless of whether a conclusion is drawn as to whether Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship is based upon love or lust, the two protagonists still ultimately triumph over the vast geographical distances and the conflict between their two cultures by acknowledging that death is their escape and their only chance of remaining a couple. Whilst Antony and Cleopatra focuses upon an incendiary love affair, it is also a play based upon a double vision of the world. The problematic relationship between the two protagonists introduces a conflict between two opposing cultures, the Roman and the Egyptian.
As critic Joyce Carole Oates suggests, ‘ it is simply between two views of the world, the Roman and the Egyptian, the old Machiavellianism of those who deal in lieutenantry ant the unfixed, pulsating, undignified voluptuousness of those to whom passion has become a world. ‘ Despite the differences between the worlds of the protagonists, they discover a mutual and transcendental union that amply compensates for the sacrifices of land ownership they must make, yet their love marks a different form of power that challenges even the political strength of Rome. Rebecca Jordan 12. 5 Wycombe High School 52433 2004 English Literature