In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare uses rich, poetic language; this not only provides a source of visual pleasure for the audience as it is a play; but also acts as a means of defining the various characters, particularly Antony and Cleopatra, the protagonists. In the scene being analysed, the tone, hyperbole language and imagery gives the reader an insight into the characters as well as their affection for one another. ‘If you find him sad, Say I am dancing; if in mirth, report’.
From the outset of the scene, Cleopatra’s language and tone of voice depicts her character to the reader as very clever, yet volatile with a bizarre lack of confidence, ‘I shall fall’ illustrates her dependence and need for stability and security. The melodrama also portrays her crave for attention, especially that from Antony, and her egotistic rush for power and recognition. The reader also perceives Antony as the eponymous, tragic hero, who is allowing his love for Cleopatra to cloud his judgement.
His short rushed sentences, ‘Now, my dearest queen’ in reply to her demands reiterate this judgement of character, he is reassuring her, and trying to placate her as he doesn’t want a scene. The scene is almost a microcosm of the entire play; it miniaturises fundamental themes, and sets the atmosphere for the rest of the play. It also immediately gives the reader a sense of the characters personalities and future plots. This is firstly a result of the heavily laden evocative language. At the beginning of the scene being analysed, Cleopatra’s character is being portrayed as manipulative, confrontational and argumentative.
From her exaggerated language, ‘Nay, pray you seek no colour for your going, but bid farewell and go’, the reader can depict that she is endlessly in a sly attempt to win Antony’s affections. Also, the imperative nouns she uses shows she feels she is superior as Queen and extremely important, and it also portrays how demanding as a character she is. Pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘her’ are used frequently by Cleopatra which gives a tense, sarcastic feel as it is monosyllabic and gives the sense of Cleopatra shouting out the words in anger and them sharply hitting Antony.
Cleopatra also purposely does not use Fulvia’s name when talking about her but labels her with ‘her’ which implies to the reader the extent of Cleopatra’s jealously and low self esteem. It also shows Cleopatra does not believe Fulvia is worth the recognition, ‘What, says the married woman you may go? ‘ Antony’s language in this scene however, is juxtaposed to Cleopatra’s to emphasize the difference in their personalities and to heighten the confrontation.
His language is slightly submissive and furthermore he is constantly being cut off by Cleopatra which the reader can from that deduce Cleopatra has the most power and control in the relationship yet contrastingly, it appears she is more reliant on him. Shakespeare presents the reader with an example of a fanciful, bizarre expression and conceit when Cleopatra tells Antony the intensity of their love, ‘Eternity was in our lips and eyes, Bliss in our brows’ bent; none our parts so poor But was a race of heaven’.
Cleopatra’s words, ‘eternity’, ‘bliss’ etc demonstrate her love, passion and infatuation with Antony, and through her lyrical, almost poetic language, Shakespeare has clearly exposed this to the reader. The alliteration of ‘bliss brows bent’, has a rhythmical, peaceful sound and connotes and represents the love the two share. The two are also speaking in verse which implies what they are saying has a great level of importance which re-enforces their love and commitment toward one another.
Cleopatra also states, ‘Or thou, the greatest soldier of the world, Art turned the greatest liar’. This is reality creeping in however, as they are lost in a world of their own and the reader can infer therefore Antony must be neglecting her soldier duties to Rome and as one of the three triumvirs, which inevitably suggests the empire will collapse. ‘Thou’ however, contains an element of contempt, which could represent Cleopatra’s disapproval of Antony’s duality between her and his soldier responsibilities or just Rome in general.
Antony’s dialect re-enforces this and enables the reader to see this dramatic change in his character and priorities. ‘The strong necessity of time commands Our services awhile, but my full heart Remains in use with you’. This is a vivid re-exertion of the human world and suggests he feels it is an obligation to return to Rome, yet his heart remains in Egypt. Thus, the reader can learn that Antony is being influenced by Egypt as his language is changing and his priorities are altered.
The reader could also infer Antony seems slightly emasculated as a result of the empowering Queen by the use of his romantic, graceful language and tentative nouns. The tone of the passage is significant in giving the reader insight into the characters. The scene being analysed firstly has quite a sharp, aggressive tone, especially from Cleopatra’s side, ‘Pray you, stand farther from me’. The reply from Antony is short and sharp, but only as Cleopatra will not give him time to talk and he uses flattery to try and placate her.
There is juxtaposition between Cleopatra’s commanding and Antony’s soft, calmer tone, and this allows the reader to make character judgements; that Antony is more submissive in the relationship. Also, as Antony’s sentences are short, this mirrors the language of Rome, which is direct and confident, and perhaps from this the reader can infer that Antony will inevitably return to Rome. From the tone the reader can deduce that Cleopatra’s relationship with Antony has something of the feeling of a game to it.
She seeks to play him in a way that will keep him hers, and although she decries falseness in a man sees nothing wrong with keeping Antony on his toes with a few well-placed lies. This makes the tone quite tense, and the reader feels unsettled as the situation could change at any given point. However, there is a slightly ambiguous tone to the passage, it is unclear whether Cleopatra is angry at Antony or whether she is just dubious of him leaving her, and going back to Rome where Fulvia is.
The tone however suddenly changes to a more light-hearted tone when they start speaking in verse; yet there are still elements of bitterness, ‘thou’ has a factor of contempt and short, sharp sentences give a snappy, rushed feel. There is a lot of imagery in the passage, which portrays the characters in certain lights and represents the characters in symbolic ways. Egypt and Rome are two ongoing symbols that represent Cleopatra and Antony and thus from descriptions of the places and information about them, the reader gains knowledge on the characters and their personalities.
Egypt is a place of mystery, strangeness, infinite possibilities; Rome of that which is fixed, known, predictable, calculable. Rome is aggressively male, Egypt seductively female. Antony in Egypt is seen from Rome as effeminate and Cleopatra appeals to (in both senses) and corresponds with a part of Antony, his anima, the feminine, sensitive, loving, creative side of his nature; a side utterly scorned by the values of Rome, values we have inherited. To conclude, Shakespeare uses language, imagery, tone etc as a device of characterization which is extremely effective.
Through Cleopatra’s and Antony’s conversations, the reader can infer the juxtaposed characters personalities. The relationship and the power in the relationship is also portrayed through these devices and it is enigmatic as it is as if the reader is looking onto a situation that perhaps they have no right in doing so. Cleopatra is often given control of a situation as she is able to manipulate Antony through expressing her emotions, whereas Cleopatra is altering Antony and his responsibilities and she has the power to infatuate him.