This speech given by Enobarbus is a contrast in itself. It is the first real description of Cleopatra that is given to the audience and it is presented by a Roman soldier. Enobarbus, when speaking at other times, is coarse and common and talks in a language that the audience of that time would find easy to understand. At this point though, he is allowed to be poetic and graceful in his use of language, when describing Cleopatra’s arrival onto the scene, ‘The barge she sat in, like burnished throne burned on the water.'(II,ii,L196) and ‘the silken tackle swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands’. (II,ii,L215)
There is also the contrast that Enobarbus, being Antony’s right-hand man, should be angry with Antony because he has abandoned his duties and does not act like a soldier when he is with Cleopatra. Giving this speech to Enobarbus makes it easier for the audience to believe her attractiveness and power. Enobarbus should be against her not praising her beauty.
Though Cleopatra is at first portrayed as a sultry oriental Queen and gives the impression of regal austerity she is seen later behaving like a petulant child. She threatens a messenger with death if he does not give her the news she wishes to hear. Shakespeare had used dramatic irony to cause the audience to anticipate Cleopatra’s reaction to Antony’s marriage with Octavia and this manifests itself in her use of exaggeration and phrases that are rife with strong passionate imagery,
“Ram thou thy Fruitful Tidings in my Ears, That long time have been Barren”(II,v,L25) she says to the messenger, then If he tells her Antony is well, “I’ll set thee in a Shower of Gold, and hail Rich Pearls upon thee”(II,v,l46), concluding with ” The most infectious pestilence upon thee”, “…horrible villain, or I’ll spurn thine eyes like balls before me; I’ll unhair thy head. Thou shalt be whipp’d with wire, and stew’d in brine, smarting in ling’ring pickle.”(II,v,l61-64) when she discovers the truth.
Antony is at first portrayed as a man who has betrayed his empire for love. He is described as ‘a strumpet’s fool’ by one of his own soldiers but this is contrasted with Cleopatra’s admiring descriptions of him as ‘the demi-Atlas of the earth’ (I.5.l23) and as a giant of a man in that ‘his legs bestride the ocean’ (v.2.l82). Antony’s prowess as a military man and influence is confirmed by Caesar himself when he states that any hardship that Antony faced he ‘borne it so like a soldier’.
Shakespeare’s dramatic strategy in Antony and Cleopatra was concerned with creating images of Egypt that his Elizabethan audience could identify with: feasting, wealth, pyramids, serpents, insects and above all, the mysterious fertile Nile. In conclusion this drama is best viewed by an audience where the contrasts can also be seen. The vertical sense and physical rigidity manifested in the Roman’s military uniform and their firm, solid, upright positions contrast with the graceful ease of the mobile, colourful and playful Egyptians who would fill the stage with the movement of fans and music.