Antony and Cleopatra conveys a sense of both vastness and intimacy. Discuss. ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ takes place in both Rome, the political side of the play, and Egypt, the feminine, seductive aspect of the play. Then, of course, there are the battle scenes which take place in Actium and Syria. The important cities are a vast space away from each other, but even so, Antony and Cleopatra keep their love for each other, and show their intimacy, with other characters also.
Even though the two major places are not other ends of the earth, they would seem a long way away from each other in Elizabethan times, as they did not have the travel we do now. We first see this vastness in Act 1: Scene 3, in one of Antony’s speeches, where he tells Cleopatra: ” my heart remains in full use with you”, but decides that he must leave her for Rome. He tells of Italy, Rome and Egypt and his political duty. Shakespeare has placed this here to prepare us for the demands of Antony and how far Egypt and Rome seemed from each other.
When Messengers, or other characters from the play, talk of different cities or lands, Shakespeare makes them seem very foreign and either exotic or military. As Pompey says: ” Mark Antony in Egypt sits at dinner. ” he makes Egypt sound like a relaxing place, far away from the battles and politics of Rome. The word ‘sits’ gives us a picture of Egypt as a city where everyone lives for pleasure and only relaxes, eats and drinks. This is a large contrast from Rome, and here Shakespeare is reinforcing the vastness between the two cities.
Shakespeare wants to portray the vastness throughout the play and show that the two cities are a vast distance away from each other. In Act 1: Scene 5, Cleopatra receives news that Antony is on his way to Rome. Shakespeare knew that Rome was quite far from Egypt, and that Antony could not arrive for his political duties within one scene. This is why he placed a scene, with Pompey, as Act 2: Scene 1, to span out the time so Antony could arrive in Rome, as we see in the next scene.
This portrays the vastness of the play, as Cleopatra’s love took time to travel between the two cities. In Act 2: Scene 4, Antony realises that he misses Cleopatra and wishes to return to Egypt. He says that ” I’th’ East my pleasure lies”. Shakespeare makes Egypt sound like a foreign, exotic, seductive place. Shakespeare has chosen ‘East’ instead of Egypt because it makes it seem further away from Athens, where Antony is, so supports the vastness aspect of the play. In Act 3: Scene 1, we move to a battle scene, which shows more vastness and space.
It is with Ventidius and Silius, who have just won battle. Shakespeare takes us to an extreme outpost of the Roman Empire. Shakespeare has also put this scene in for structure; a festivity has just taken place on Pompey’s boat and because Shakespeare wants to show the ‘morning after’, he puts this scene in to pass the time. This is one of Shakespeare’s common conventions to pass the time in this play. In Act 3: Scene 4, Shakespeare introduces us to a new vastness, between two characters and their characteristics.
At this point in the play, Antony and Octavia have moved to Athens to live their lives. Antony is extremely angry, as he has just learnt of Caesar’s actions. Octavia tries to calm him and tells him that: “If this division chance, ne’er stood between, praying for both parts. ” We can see that Octavia is in a difficult situation; she is torn between the two most important men in her life. This portrays vastness, as there is a large space between her and Antony, as they have different decisions to make and their feelings towards Caesar are very different.
There is also a vastness between her and Cleopatra, as the audience can see, they are very different. Enobarbus even says this, in a scene earlier on. He tells Agrippa that: “On each side her stood pretty dimpled boys, a strange invisible perfume hit the senses. ” He uses descriptive language and emotive language that appeal to the senses that show that Cleopatra is much more glamorous than Octavia. It may be taken that Enobarbus is in love with Cleopatra, but every man adored her and admired her.
We have seen that there is true vastness in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ from the cities that seemed so far apart, to the characteristics of different characters, but there is also clearly intimacy in this play that can easily be seen between characters. The first stage of intimacy we see is straightaway in Act 1: Scene 1. Conventionally, Shakespeare starts the scene with lesser characters, and then the more important characters enter: Antony and Cleopatra. We see, as Philo has told us, that Antony is flirtatious and has abandoned his political duties for his love.
We see this when they enter the play when Cleopatra tells Antony: ” If it be love indeed, tell me how much. ” Shakespeare has put this scene here to show the audience of the intimacy between the two most important characters. It prepares us for later on, when we see their true love. Shakespeare uses magical language, ‘new heaven, new earth’, to describe the love between these two characters. Even though there is obvious intimacy between obvious characters: lovers, we also see this action between female characters.
Throughout the play we notice that Cleopatra is very close to her handmaid’s Charmian and Iras. She treats them like one of her own, not the class they are in. She relies on them and the intimacy between them is very clear, when the play is shown on stage. In Act 2: Scene 5 she leans and relies on them after the news that Antony has married: ” I faint! O Iras, Charmian! Pity me, Charmian. ” She is clearly distraught, which Shakespeare shows here, and he also portrays Cleopatra’s need for her maids and how close they are. We will also see this in her final scene.