Antony and Cleopatra

The Presentation of Age and Ageing in Act I of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. 12th Grade

Through Antony’s negligence of his Roman duties and soldierly responsibilities, Shakespeare depicts a particularly fractured and complicated world in the first act of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ that is characterised by the very public conflicts between the Roman and Alexandrian domains and the more intimate clashes between Antony’s desires and obligations. Shakespeare effectively underpins these themes of clashing and friction with notions of change and adaption and he roots Antony’s indecisions of returning home or not within the ultimate development of his character that is initially unseen in the play; whether these are positive or negative changes, the key themes presented by Shakespeare can all be attributed to the impact of characters, and even their ideals, ageing. Indeed, Shakespeare’s presentation of age and ageing is a complex and nuanced one.

Act I opens with an immediate indication of the negative change that Antony undergoes; Philo’s observation of Antony’s newfound “dotage” (1.1.1) for Cleopatra marks an ostensible decline in his respect for Antony as he perceives this to be uncharacteristic of the upstanding and reputable Roman leader that he once was. The imagery Philo uses to convey this dismay is particularly...

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