Act II Scene II is a rich piece of text, replete with oppositional imagery. We have the duty, honour and strategical strength of Rome pitted against the description of Cleopatra and the world of Egypt in a profligate hyperbolic manner. From the very commencement of Act II Scene II we are met with the third Triumvir, Lepidus, who is neither gallant like Antony nor politically judicious like Caesar. He lacks the power and command of his fellow triumvirs, he vainly tries to maintain a balance of power by keeping Caesar and Antony on amiable terms.
He attempts to enlist the support of Enobarbus, Antony’s trusted friend. The language Lepidus uses is far from authoritative even though he is a Triumvir, “Good Enobarbus, ’tis a worthy deed, and shall become you well, to entreat your captain, to soft and gentle speech. ” However Enobarbus replies that he will “entreat him / To answer like himself. ” Here we are met with the opposition of authority within the Romans. Lepidus’ opening speech shows that he is, indeed, a meek, mild- mannered man who attempts to please and offend no one.
He tells the other Triumvirs, “That which combined us was most great, and let not / A leaner action rend us,”… “for I earnestly beseech, touch you the sourest points with sweetest terms, nor curstness grow to the matter. ” Throughout this scene Lepidus is shown to have the least lines, in the opening of this scene Enobarbus has more lines than Lepidus which tell us as an audience of the structure of the play. Enobarbus might be socially beneath Lepidus however he is more politically astute than his counterpart.
The conversation and language used between Caesar and Antony tells us of the two personalities in great depth. The meeting and conflict between Antony and Caesar is entirely Shakespeare’s own creation, for it was not reported in Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch. The scene is important for it reveals more information about both men. From the very beginning we are met with the clash of power within the two protagonists, Caesar says, ” Sit,” Antony replies with, ” Sit sir,” Caesar replies, ” Nay then. Here the language is short and severe, telling us of the growing antagonism between the two triumvirs. Also it highlights the fact that even though Caesar is the , “the prepubescent boy,” he is marked as an equal to Antony. For he orders Antony to sit down first. Caesar is thoroughly accusing within this scene, whereas Antony is proving himself to be self-confident and able to handle Caesar’s many grievances against him.
The idea of Caesar of being accusing is gathered from the alliteration of the word, “you,”… “myself offended, and with you,”… “Once name you derogately, when to sound your name. Caesar is both a menacing adversary to Antony and a rigid representation of Roman law and order. In Act II Scene II he seems bent, rather ruthlessly on destroying Antony in front of his men. Caesar is depicted in a less positive light than Antony. He meddles in the private affairs of Antony and then tries to justify his actions. He poses several petty charges against Antony, “Your wife and brother ,made wars upon me; and their contestation ,was theme for you, you were the word of war. ” He accuses Antony of inciting Fulvia to make war against him when he knows that Antony really had no part in it.
Shakespeare here enlightens us with a facet of Roman culture in relation with women and their standing in society. He has exposed the tough, masculine ethos which while having room to honour women in certain limited ways has little place for them in public life, other than political tools (as shown here) or upholders of very masculine ideals and producers of soldiers. Caesar is quite unlike Antony when it comes to women and regards them as mere objects and is uncontrolled by them , whereas Antony does not handle his women as well as he handles Caesar; he is unable to control them in any way.
Earlier in the play, Cleopatra was able to easily manipulate Antony. Now he admits that he could not control his own wife, Fulvia, “As for my wife, I would you had her spirit in such another: The third o’ the world is yours; which with a snaffle, you may pace easy, but not such a wife. ” Obviously everything is not perfect between the two of them. This is further proven when he agrees to marry Octavia, Caesar’s sister, in order to attempt reconciliation between Caesar and himself. For the moment, he is more concerned about his political life than his love affair with Cleopatra.
The implications of this heated conversation between Antony and Caesar tells us of the disintegration between the relationship of the two triumvirs and the opinion that Caesar holds of Antony. We get the sense that Antony has abandoned the better part of his manhood. “You have broken the article of your oath; which you shall never have tongue to charge me with. ” Here the character of ascetic Caesar tell us of his Spartan and severe beliefs which are contesting the loyalty Antony has to Rome, against the hedonistic character of Antony. For the first time in the play, Antony speaks negatively of Cleopatra in this scene.
He says that she “poisoned” him during his stay in Egypt, “Neglected, rather; And then when poison’d hours had bound me up from mine own knowledge. ” To cement the alliance and ‘loyalty’ to Rome the marriage to Octavia is raised. “Thou hast a sister by the mother’s side, admired Octavia,”… “To hold you in perpetual amity, To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts with an unslipping knot, take Antony Octavia to his wife; whose beauty claims No worse a husband than the best of men;” the union between Octavia and Antony is shown to be marriage in order to attempt reconciliation between Caesar and Antony.
To salvage his political career Antony agrees. This also shows that women were regarded as guarantors of new alliances in ancient Rome. The union between Antony and Cleopatra is not a bond of love or passion just an agreement more like, to keep Caesar off Antony’s case. Furthermore the main essence of this scene is contained within the lines of the unknown protagonist Enobarbus who plays a very crucial part . The astute right hand man of Antony, the golden tongued wordsmith encapsulates the ambivalent nature of Romans towards Egypt.
The rough soldier, who is the most cynical of spokesmen for Roman values and at the same time the most eloquent admirer of all things Egyptian, especially Cleopatra. He can casually dismiss women as hardly worthy of consideration, ” under a compelling occasion let women die. It were a pity to cast them away for nothing, though between them and a great cause they should be esteemed as nothing. ” Enobarbus has given a famous tribute to Cleopatra, an appreciation of her beauty, passionately sincere, also in his heart he knows she has an inestimable, irrational and very non- Roman value.
In this passage Shakespeare changed North’s text so as to intensify the focus on Cleopatra. When North describes the objects and people around Cleopatra in Act II Scene II, he describes them as free-standing, as it were, separate from her. Shakespeare refers them to Cleopatra, Instead of North’s barge, “whereof” the poop was of gold, Shakespeare’s is “the barge she sat in. ” North describes her gentlewomen, while in Shakespeare they are bending over Cleopatra. There are painters in North to paint the pretty boys, while in Shakespeare there is only Cleopatra, “o’er picturing that Venus.
North’s pretty boys simply fan wind on Cleopatra, while Shakespeare has us look at her “delicate cheeks. ” North’s “Some of them followed the barge” becomes “The city cast Her people out upon her. ” North ends his description with Antony alone in the market-place, but Shakespeare adds a final reference to Cleopatra, “and Antony, enthroned i’ the market-place, did sit alone, whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy, had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too, and made a gap in nature. ” The verse by Enobarbus reflects Shakespeare’s opulent mood here.
The description of Cleopatra on her barge is described in such ornate, flowery verbose detail, Shakespeare adds words, notably adjectives, like “beaten. ” Ordinarily, Enobarbus sees events prosaically, rationally, realistically, ironically. When he tries to describe the image of Cleopatra, though, he becomes a poet. He uses language replete with hyperboles, i. e. “winds were love-sick” similes i. e. “Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,” and also paradoxes.
Shakespeare started with North’s “appareled and attired like the goddess Venus, commonly drawn in picture. He changed the ordinary text to “O’er picturing that Venus where we see / The fancy outwork nature,” hence Enobarbus the hard-headed Roman transforms in which imagination surpasses nature. Shakespeare gives us the repetition of “burnish’d throne / Burnt on the water. ” As in that addition, he enriches the scene by increasing the number of references to smell, temperature, and touch, the more immediate and intimate senses.
Leit motifs are also used to replicate the repeated mood of the scene i. e. “smiling Cupids,”… “pretty dimpled boys,”… “O’er-picturing that Venus. In this description of Cleopatra Enobarbus speaks in a Roman style but he colours his bare language by adjectives and clauses i. e. “With divers-colour’d fans,”… “whose wind. ” It is as though Enobarbus himself is feminized, by remembering the sight of Cleopatra in her barge. The use of purple prose by Enobarbus tells us of the loquacious image of Cleopatra, the idea that air and water are enamored of Cleopatra and the final description of Antony whistling to the air. “From the barge a strange invisible perfume hits the sense of the adjacent wharfs.
The city cast her people out upon her; and Antony, enthroned i’ the market-place, did sit alone, whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy, had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too, and made a gap in nature. ” Enobarbus animates or uses anthropomorphism to give objects such as, barge, wind, oars, air, city, life, “the barge burned,”… “the water followed faster,”… ” the silken tackle swells,”… ” a perfume hits the sense,” In this passage, these lifeless objects are given feelings, notably sexual feelings, felt by the admiring Enobarbus.
He also creates sexual images, the fans do and undo Cleopatra’s glowing cheeks, and “do” and “undo” had a more sexual meaning to Elizabethans, another sexual image “the silken tackle / Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands,” makes the entire speech so full of vivacity. Furthermore the use of alliteration softens the images conjured by Enobarbus, “The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver, which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made the water which they beat to follow faster, as amorous of their strokes,” here the lines lack plosive sounds of p’s and b’s to make the language more fluid and constant.
The use of epic language has been successfully used to achieve emphasis and effect within the reader. Enobarbus highlights his admiration for Cleopatra, ” a rare Egyptian,” an exotic flower. Act II Scene II is a clear contrast of Rome and Egypt. When in Rome, Antony acts like the Romans. He becomes a political creature, capable of defending himself and his actions against the accusing Caesar. He is also capable of making quick and correct military decisions, as evidenced by his support of fighting against Pompeius.
Additionally, he agrees to marry Octavia, even though he barely knows her and is not in love with her. This is a completely different man than the one pictured earlier as he enjoyed the luxuries and sensuousness offered by Egypt. Rome rails against the prowess of female sexuality in Egypt as it slowly falls under its spell. Enobarbus notes, Cleopatra possesses a the power to warp minds and judgment of all men, “even holy priests bless her when she acts riggishly. “