Antony and Cleopatra

The Spectrum of Duty and Desire: An Analysis of Antony and Cleopatra 12th Grade

In his play, Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare presents duty and desire on a metaphorical spectrum through the individual narratives of several characters including Antony, Cleopatra and Pompey. When presenting duty and desire in Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare does so in such a way where duty is an expression of honor and desire is an expression of selfishness. In order to present this spectrum, then, Shakespeare uses Cleopatra to exhibit desire, Pompey to exhibit duty and Antony to exhibit the confliction when duty and desire are simultaneously exercised.

Cleopatra is representative of desire in the form of her constant selfish pursuit of power and affirmation. One instance Shakespeare reveals this to the audience is when Cleopatra demands Antony to “tell [her] how much,” he loves her, “if it be love indeed.” Her demanding Antony to prove his love shows the audience Cleopatra’s tendency to act upon her desires, and in this example, for the purpose of affirmation. Another way Shakespeare shows Cleopatra’s desire is her interactions with one of her attendants wherein she demands them to “see where he is, who’s with him, what he does,” and if he, Antony, is particularly happy to report that she is “sudden sick,” or if he is...

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