Antony and Cleopatra are made up of a series ofcontrasts, here I will be exploring the contrast that is Eastversus West
Egypt Egypt are presented as being liberal, and a place of pleasure “Tonight we’ll wander through the streets and note/ The qualities ofpeople” (Act I scene I) Whilst in Egypt, Antony and Enobarbus have feasted, drunk andenjoyed the pleasures of the flesh Enobarbus even seems hesitant to leave and tries to convinceAntony to stay in Act I Scene II “If they suffer our/ departure, death’sthe word” (Line 137) Antony, previously in the same scene, comments on theenchantment that Egypt has “These strong Egyptians fetters I must break,/ Or lose myself indotage” (Lines 118-119)
Rome Rome on the other hand is a place of strict duty, politics and morals Caesar thinks Antony is being very un-roman as he “fishes, drinksand wastes/ The lamps of night in revel” (Act I Scene IV) Caesar calls Antony “A man who is the abstract of all faults” meaningthat Caesar thinks that Antony is embodying everything that is evilwhilst stationed in Egypt
Antony’s Place Characters such as Antony, and Enobarbus, can exist in both worlds. However Antony states in Act II Scene IV that “I’th’ East my pleasurelies” (Line 39) Shakespeare here, hints that Antony will return to Egypt again
How do each worlds embody these characteristics?
Rome and The Masculine Rome can also be associated with masculinity In Rome, characters are bound to reason, rather than emotion The roman’s duties are their priority, Caesar who embodieseverything roman, is stern and callus. He never lets his emotionsoverrule his reason
Egypt and The Feminine Egypt is also associated with femininity Egypt is a place where characters can freely express their emotion,Antony in particular can express himself in Egypt whereas in Romanhe is bound to comply his duty over emotion
Critical Quote“Rome has been characterized as a male world, presided over bythe austere Caesar, and Egypt as a female domain, embodied bya Cleopatra who is seen to be as abundant, leaky, andchangeable as the Nile” By Jonathan Gil Harris From "Narcissus in thy Face: Roman Desire and the Difference itFakes in Antony and Cleopatra" written in1994
What does the East and the West think of themselves; andeach other?
Rome from a Roman view Rome think they are moral, mature, structured and masculine They see the world as something to be conquered and to becontrolled They want to influence and control the world; not the other way round
Rome from an Egyptian view The Egyptians think that Rome is boring, strict and duty bound They think that the Romans follow strict rules which allow littlepassion or creativity
Egypt from an Egyptian view Ancient Egyptians believed that the environment shapes them,Egyptians generally were very in-tune with the earth/ environmentaround them. They believed that the environment was a part of them, and ruledthem; not the other way round which the Romans believe Therefore Egyptian life is less structured, allowing them to becreative and act on their human passions
Egypt from a Roman view The Romans see the Egyptians as immoral as they act on theiremotions Therefore the Romans see Egypt as being chaotic, disordered,indulgent and over-sexualised The Romans believe that Egypt, and his lover, are distracting Antonyfrom his important duties