Examine Shakespeare’s handling of one of these relationships in any one of the plays and show how the balance of power swings between the two characters concerned throughout the course of the play. In your answer you must refer closely to the text and to at least two of characterisation, plot, key scenes, theme or any other appropriate feature. Antony and Cleopatra is a play in which the balance of power swings interestingly between two lovers. It is set in the First Century BC between Rome and Egypt. Antony is one of the three members of the second triumvirate who jointly rule the Roman Empire.
Antony is the eponymous tragic hero, who allows his love for Cleopatra to cloud his judgement. According to Aristotle this is hamartia, an error of judgment caused by fate. This leads to his downfall. Cleopatra is the Queen of Egypt; she is a very clever yet volatile lady. We follow their relationship and changes in power between them throughout the play in chronological order. The great feeling of love between the two characters allows the play to have unexpected twists. Culminating in both their suicides, unusually Cleopatra lives on past Antony’s death.
We can easily see the balance of power shift throughout the play, between Antony and Cleopatra. From the opening of the play we see the imbalance of power between the two as in Act one Scene one which is framed by disapproval as two offices lament the change that has came over their leader; “And is become the bellows and the fan/ To cool a gipsy’s lust”. This is a typical Roman view of Antony being subservient to Cleopatra, given to us from Philo a Roman soldier based in Egypt. The soldier also states from what a great height Antony has fallen; “The triple pillar of the world transform’d / Into a strumpet’s fool.
” These two passages show us that even from the beginning the audience is made aware of Cleopatra’s effect on Antony. The language Philo uses shows how he feel as “strumpet” and “gypsy” are very derogatory terms to use to describe a queen. They also add to the total paradox of Cleopatra’s character she is always seen in two lights. In scene one we also see the first example of Cleopatra’s domineering nature as she declares: “I’ll set a bourn how far to be belov’d”. This lets us know that she is defiantly in charge of the relationship at this point. In Roman times women were seen as weak characters, Cleopatra’s proves to be different.
Her volatile, controlling and clever personality allows she to show how dominating she can be. We see that at the beginning of the play the balance of power most defiantly lies with her. In Act one Scene two were learn that Antony is aware that Cleopatra is his downfall. This is what makes him the tragic hero: he is fully aware of his flaw but unable to stop it. His love for Cleopatra is leading him astray. Antony has two realisations in the scene, in his first he knows his love for Cleopatra shall be his undoing. His self awareness is obvious when he says “These strong Egyptian fetters,I must break,/Or lose myself in dotage.
” Later in the scene Shakespeare uses a soliloquy to put across how Antony is feeling; “I must from this enchanting queen break off. / Ten thousand harms,more than the ills I know,/my idleness doth hatch. ” This reinforces the control and power Cleopatra has in the relationship as the use of the word “enchanting” shows how he is mesmerised by her. In Scene three, however, the balance of power changes as Antony is provoked into a reaction. Cleopatra’s melodramatic nature, shown through her use of hyperbolical language, makes him respond and take control for the first time so far in the play; “Hear me, Queen”.
This short sharp reaction by Antony shows she has pushed him to his limit. At the end of Act one the power is back with Antony though he is still greatly affected by Cleopatra and his love for her. Since Act one Scene one the lover’s circumstances have changed. Antony has been involved in a political marriage to Octavia, Caesar’s sister. Cleopatra is devastated when she hears this news but despite hostility she wishes to be present when Antony goes to battle at sea in Act three Scene seven.
Cleopatra’s power over Antony, in this scene, causes him to make a poor military decision as she encourages him to fight by sea, even though he has a stronger land army. As Cleopatra is encouraging him and leading him in the wrong direction he is acting in a very immature manner and is refusing to listen to wise advice from Enobarbus and his soldiers. Enobarbus who is seen as the voice of truth to Antony his much adored leader says; “Your presence needs must puzzle Antony,/take from his heart, take from his brain, froms/ time” This shows that other characters can see how Antony’s love for Cleopatra is clouding his judgement.
But Antony is stubborn and keeps stating that he will fight ” By sea, by sea”. Clearly, he cannot see it is the wrong decision. Previously Antony was a masterful military leader so it demonstrates the height he has fallen from as he is letting Cleopatra lead him into battle blind. One of the themes in the play is that of power and glory. Antony who was an extremely powerful man has lost his ability to think clearly and is loosing his respect, allowing ever more power to slide towards Cleopatra, ultimately bringing about his ruin.