In Act 1 Scene 1, Antony is approached by a messenger from Rome to which he reacts to in disdain and irritation, “Grates me! The sum”, and then dismissing him, “Speak not to us”, but when Antony re-enters in Scene 2 without Cleopatra, he gives heed to him. It seems that whenever with Cleopatra, all care for responsibility is expelled from his thought, but when he is alone and free from her enchantment he is transformed into his ‘Roman’ self, realising the effect Cleopatra has on him, “These strong Egyptian fetters I must break, or lose myself in dotage.
” This again accentuates the mysterious force Cleopatra possesses over him, and gives credence to Philo’s original comment that “this dotage of our general’s o’erflows the measure”. Cleopatra is also fully aware of his changing temperament, “He was disposed to mirth, but on the sudden a Roman thought hath struck him. ” When Antony is his Roman self, she feels the need to lie to him to provoke and manipulate him once again to focus his attention on her, “If you find him sad. Say that I am dancing; if in mirth, report that I am sudden sick. ”
In conversation with Enobarbus, the audience witness for the first time Antony under his Roman disposition, in full ascendancy, and speaking decisively of the actions to be taken of current issues concerning the recently deceased Fulvia, “The business she hath broached in the state cannot endure my absence”. He suddenly begins discussing the affairs that impose threat upon the Empire, and orders the immediate withdrawal from Egypt. Through Antony’s sudden change in temperament and priorities, Shakespeare clearly shows the vast difference in his personality from Scene One and Two, due only to the influence of the presence of Cleopatra.
Cleopatra’s questioning of the sincerity of Antony’s love is also notable. When Antony expresses his profound love for her, Cleopatra responds by saying, “Excellent falsehood! Why did he marry Fulvia, and not love her? ” Either way, Antony is being accused of hypocrisy, having married Fulvia without love or having loved her whilst professing to love only Cleopatra. This demonstrates both Antony’s lack of self-control and his disloyalties to women, most certainly a negative attribute to his character.
In Act One Scene Four, Shakespeare uses Caesar’s speech on Antony’s past triumphs to contribute heavily on the perception the audience have on him. Caesar’s frustration and anger at Antony’s riotous disregard of duty is shown through his comments on his activities in Egypt, saying he “wastes the lamps of the night in revel” and has become “not more manlike than Cleopatra” and “a man who is the abstract of all faults that all men follow. ” Caesar seems disgraced by the thought that he would “give a kingdom for a mirth”, sacrificing and putting into jeopardy his and their own kingdoms for some idle jest or diversion.
However, Caesar then compliments him on the fact “his composure must be rare indeed whom these things cannot blemish”, establishing the audience’s belief that Antony is in fact a “rare” character. Despite Caesar’s contempt for Antony’s negligence of duty, Caesar is almost pleading for his quick return, as he is fully aware of the imposing threat of the current political situation concerning Pompey and his ever increasing strength in war. Caesar recognises that he needs Antony and his extensive armies, and asks him to “leave thy lascivious wassails”.
Caesar seemingly addresses Antony directly, as if in conversation, which may be employed by Shakespeare to heighten emphasis and create the sense of pleading and desperation. Most notably in his speech, Caesar gives a recollection of the Antony of former days, one who “didst drink the stale of horses and the gilded puddle which beasts would cough at” to survive the rigours he faced. He glorifies Antony saying he had “patience more than savages could suffer” and even though he faced such things, he “was borne so like a soldier that thy cheek so much as lanked not.
” Through Caesar, Shakespeare gives the audience an insight to the ascetic existence Antony once lived, so we too can comprehend the frustration Caesar has, when discussing the polarity of Antony’s past glory to his current idleness. Antony’s great reputation is again accentuated in Act Two Scene Seven by the soothsayer, claiming his spirit is “Noble, courageous, high unmatchable”. Through the disparagement and commendation of Antony throughout acts one and two, the audience can concur with Maecenas’s remark that his ‘taints and honours waged equal with him’.