“I’ll break my staff, bury it certain fathoms in the earth, and deeper than did ever plummet sound, I’ll drown my book.” At some point we all have to hang up our hat. It is the most universal of all truths. No one goes on forever. Prospero makes this decision at a most opportune time. His daughter has found a worthy husband, and most of all, he is to make peace with all his enemies and offer the noblest sentiment of them all: forgiveness. After these things take place, he asks for one last request, the audience’s applause or in other terms their gratitude. If Prospero is a changeling for the great Shakespeare himself, this may have been all that he had wanted in order to feel satisfaction with the life that he had lived. He wanted to feel that his endeavors had been well spent as his project merely, “was to please.” If this is Shakespeare’s personal farewell, I think we can show Shakespeare’s memory much love and respect by feeling gratitude for all the toil he put forth in his work to bring us and future generations so much joy.
“Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish, a vapor sometime like a bear or lion, a towered citadel, a pendent rock, a forked mountain, or blue promontory with trees upon’t that nod unto the world and mock our eyes with air.” Like a cloud in the sky, sometimes we as people change before we have realized anything has happened. It seems when we go through life, we blink our eyes and we are metamorphosed into something unfamiliar, just as a cloud changes shape right before us, even though we actually were never conscious of a change taking place. Sometimes we change so frequently that we lose our sense of identity. We forget who we really are or who we have strived to be. Antony calls the clouds that can shift before our eyes, “Black vesper’s pageants.”
Black in the sense that they blind our sense of our self-image and lead us into a dark state of contemplative melancholy that can make us question the meaning of our own existence. Maybe if we look long enough into the clouds we can see a silver lining that inspires us to carry on, unlike Antony, who reasons with sentiments of the Roman code of honor that, “There is left ourselves to end ourselves.”
Cleopatra is called many things throughout the play including “whore”, “slave”, and “gypsy”. Her beauty is almost beyond comprehension, and she is called these things out of spite and jealousy. She as seems to have an insatiable sexual appetite, and Antony has become “the bellows and the fan to cool his gypsy’s lust.” Antony is torn between his duties in Rome and his “Egyptian dish.” Shakespeare illuminates the concept of lust being a distraction to the obligations we have in life. As Philo says, Antony has changed since consorting with Cleopatra, “Those his goodly eyes that have glowed like plated Mars now bend the office and devotion of their view upon a tawny front.” The beaming enthusiasm he once employed his duties with has tarnished into a “tawny” or lack-lustre indifference. What once was his priority has now taken the back burner to Cleopatra’s whims. A lesson we can take from this is to be wary of things that are “too good” as Cleopatra’s beauty is, because it could lead us to never being satisfied. Antony teaches us how lust corrupts our reason. Hear Antony rage as his intimacy is interrupted with news concerning his duties in Rome, “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch of the rang’d empire fall. Here[Cleopatra’s bosom] is my space!” This is a pretty bold statement considering he is one of the three triumvirs in charge of Rome. Philo comments that he is “The triple pillar of the world transform’d into a strumpet’s fool.” Shakespeare’s source Plutarch remarks, “The love for Cleopatra which now entered his life came as the final and crowning mischief which could befall him. It excited to the point of madness many passions which had hitherto lain concealed, or at the least dormant, and it stifled or corrupted all those redeeming qualities in him which were still capable of resisting temptation.” Resisting temptation is never easy when you’re dealing with someone like Cleopatra who, “makes hungry where most she satisfies,” and where, “Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety.”