Cleopatra EssaysThe Unlikely Heros of Antony and Cleopatra In Shakespeares Antony and Cleopatra the two eponymous heroes, and lovers frequently contend with each other in a battle of words and wills. It is from these conflicts, that the reader learns most about each characters true nature. From the start of the play Antony is portrayed as a ruler who has lost his desire for dominance, a ruler who has lost his rigid loyalty to his empire, but instead has found his lover – Cleopatra. From the outset we have many reasons to dislike this influenced hero, yet as we find ourselves captivated in a play of conflicts, loyalty and war, he eventually wins our admiration. Antony is a character that has lost many of the fine qualities he once possessed. Love strips Antony of the things he has previously valued: power, ambition, honour, integrity as a soldier and leader.
Throughout the play Antonys diminish is clearly shown by his actions, as Cleopatra gradually influences him. Primarily Antonys new disloyalty to his country and the triumvirate is a reason we dislike the character. This disloyalty is visible from the beginning of the play. In the first scene we see Antonys deep infatuation with Cleopatra. As a man obviously in love, he declares that he doesn’t care about his vast empire, but wants to remain in Egypt with Cleopatra: “Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch of my ranged empire fall! Here is my space” This remark obviously comes as a terrible shock to the officers around Antony. It is an insult to everything they fought for, and also an insult to Caesar, as a member of the triumvirate. From the start we feel annoyance towards Antony because of this disloyalty, especially provoked when Philo and Demetrius comment with dismay on Antonys conduct.
They observe with disgust as their powerful leader is mocked, teased and manipulated by the Egyptian Cleopatra. They feel that Antony has chosen lust, rather than military honour. Antony turns his back on the empire and especially the triumvirate when he ignores Caesars messengers, causing friction between the two leaders. Unlike Caesar, Antony no longer feels it necessary to conquer the world.
Antony instead mixes his priorities, when he emphasises his love for Cleopatra. He stresses the empire is of no importance to him anymore, unlike previously. Again love has conquered him. As a result there is a diminish in how his followers value him, how Caesar values him and of course the reader. Antonys good soldiership is also lost. This is especially shown, when Antony decides to fight Caesar at sea, ignoring the advice of Enobarbus and Canidius. Anotony fights at sea in order to impress Cleopatra.
This is an example of how Antonys good soldiership is lost. Antonys diminish in power and loyalty is again shown when he shamefully flees the battle of Actium. He himself comments: “O thy vile lady! She has robbed me of my sword” Following his shameful defeat at Actium Antony, his agonised sense of failure is such that he believes he has `lost command’, both of himself and others. His only answer to Caesars demands is a foolish challenge to single combat. Yet there is nobility and greatness even in failure.
Antony does not forget his followers, and blames neither Enobarbus for his desertion, nor Cleopatra for her deception. Above all he finds a new integrity in his realisation that he cares more about Cleopatra than he does for himself and that life without her is no life at all.