Antony and Cleopatra Part 1

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.”


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