The Presentation of Rome and Egypt in the Play Antony and Cleopatra

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The Presentation of Rome and Egypt in the Play Antony and Cleopatra

One of the foremost of themes in the play of Antony and Cleopatra alongside “tragedy” and “love” is the differences between the two “worlds” of Rome and Egypt. Throughout the play, Shakespeare frequently presents and demonstrates to the audience the reality and differences between these two “worlds” in many ways and forms. In this essay I will discuss how Shakespeare does this and how he presents it to the audience.

Antony, who is the primary character in the play, portrays the ideas of the two “worlds” of Egypt and Rome very clearly. Shakespeare presents Antony as a different man when in Rome and a different one when in
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When in Rome Antony is part of the triumvir with Octavious Caesar and Lepidus and together they rule the Roman Empire. In Rome, Antony possesses qualities of a leader and is an important figure in the triumvir. However, when in Egypt Antony finds himself in a place where his mind it set away from duty in Rome, and finds a place where he indulges in love and romance. This shows that Rome is a “world” where by military duty and leadership is top priority. This also shows Egypt is a place where romance and love comes first and military duty and leadership comes second.

Antony finds himself undecided about where he really belongs and as to where is loyalties lie, Rome or Egypt. He is tempted to stay in Egypt because of his love for Cleopatra and also because he is free from his political duties and being soldier. At the beginning of the play he says to Cleopatra

“Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space. Kingdoms are clay. Our dungy earth alike Feeds beast as man”,

This shows his yearning to stay with Cleopatra and to stay in Egypt. However later he says

“ I must from this enchanting queen break off”.

He realises that his obsession with Cleopatra is not strong enough to overcome his responsibilities in Rome.

Cleopatra’s character is a true representative of the state of Egypt. The Egyptian principles of love and
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