Tragic Heroism in Shakespeare's Antony And Cleopatra Essay

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In the tragedy “Antony and Cleopatra”, Shakespeare presents our protagonist Mark Antony as a tragic hero. He does this by using a number of dramatically effective methods, including language, staging techniques and structure. Aristotle defines a tragic hero as a character of noble stature who has a tragic flaw (usually hubris which is over confidence/arrogance) and suffers a downfall that is partially their fault but also due to factors beyond their control. The downfall they suffer exceeds the “crime” but the tragic hero gains some sort of self-awareness.

Before the audience meets Antony, Shakespeare presents us with two soldiers discussing Antony’s current debauched life. This is dramatically effective staging because they are acting
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Another soldier calls him “the god of Jupiter” which elevates Antony’s status to that of a great leader, because Jupiter was the leader amongst all the other gods. Philo compares him to Mars, the god of war, which shows elevates his stature to be one of equal rank with a god. Caesar recalls Antony’s excellent soldiership and “virtus” qualities. “Virtus” was the Roman ideal of male force and energy: military prowess coupled with devotion to one’s honour and fame. Antony had to “drink/the stale of horses” and eat “strange flesh” and “the bark of trees” in order to stay alive and he was “borne so like a soldier that thy cheek…lanked not.” These striking images paint an unfathomable scene of heroic endurance which the audience respects and admires.

The audience is privy to a private conversation in Caesar’s home between Caesar and Lepidus, who were the other two thirds of the “triple pillar of the world” – the triumvirate. The triumvirate were a powerful political and military force; they ruled the Roman Empire after the murder of Julius Caesar. During this conversation, they discuss Antony’s debauched life and his former greatness in Caesar’s home where Caesar feels free to express his opinions honestly and he declares that Antony is “a man who is abstract of all faults” and someone who would “give a kingdom for mirth.” This shows us how far he has fallen in Caesar’s eyes as his tone would be scathing and I imagine he would be pacing as he ranted about Antony
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