Antony and Cleopatra

How does Shakespeare present Antony and Cleopatra's relationship?

Antony and Cleopatra’s love for one another is the prominent theme throughout the play, and although both characters profess to an incomparable “peerless” love, they encourage doubt in the audience by acting in a manner that appears to contradict this. This is demonstrated by Cleopatra’s bullying, manipulative manner and also with the ease with which Antony dismisses their relationship in front of Caesar and his marriage to Octavia. Ultimately, Shakespeare intended for the audience to question the genuineness of Antony and Cleopatra’s feelings, to explore what really makes a loving relationship, and where the lines between love and desire (whether this be for power, sex or adoration) blur.

One of the themes that Shakespeare uses to promote suspicion within the audience as to the genuineness of Cleopatra’s feelings, is the controlling, belittling way in which she treats Antony. This is presented immediately with the introduction of the protagonists onto the stage, as Cleopatra asks Antony “If it be love indeed, tell me how much”. With such an early indication of Cleopatra’s demanding attitude, the audience quickly learns of the dynamics of their relationship, and Cleopatra’s selfish role within this. Shakespeare further prepares...

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