How Shakespeare Makes the Audience Aware of Cleopatra's Infinite Variety in the Opening Act
Cleopatra was a talented mistress who used her feminine charm for
personal gain. She was seductive, lustful, flirtatious, and sarcastic,
she had courage, and she was jealous, spiteful, very violent and
impatient. She was a woman of many contrasts, facets and changing
moods. Shakespeare shows these different aspects of her character in
the first act then goes on to build on them throughout the play.
In the opening scene straight away we enter into Philo and Demetrius'
- friends of Antony - conversation, the subject of which is Cleopatra,
Philo is not speaking very highly of her saying she has, '. . .a tawny
front. . .' suggesting she is dark-skinned but he is doing so in an
uncomplimentary way. In the same conversation he calls Cleopatra a
'gipsy' meaning a loose woman; this straight away gives us the
impression that Cleopatra isn't very popular with the friends of
Cleopatra and Antonythen enter, we see Cleopatra being flirtatious as
soon as she appears on the stage, 'If it be love indeed tell me how
much you love me' Antonyreplies, 'There's beggary in the love that can
be reckon'd'. Here, Antony is saying that the love that can be exactly
estimated must be a poor one. Cleopatra still replies with, 'I'll set
a bourn how far to be belov'd' and here she is teasing him, and saying
he has to put some sort of boundary on how much he loves her.
An attendant enters with a message from Rome. Antonyasks for a quick
summary but Cleopatra says, 'Nay, hear them, Antony:
Fuliva, perchance, is angry; or, who knows
if the scarce-bearded Caesar have not sent
his powerful mandate to you, 'do this, or this;
take in that kingdom, and enfranchise that;
perform't, or else we damn thee.' Here Cleopatra is being sarcastic,
she is telling Antony to listen because it may be that Fulvia - his
wife - is angry or it might be a message from Caesar telling him to do
some thing. Antonyexplains to her that he doesn't care about Fuliva or
Caesar but she still doesn't believe it and shows scepticism by
saying,'. . . Why did he marry Fuliva and not love her? I'll seem the
fool I am not; Antonywill be himself.'
In scene two Antonysays, '. . . these strong Egyptian feathers I must
break, or lose my self in dotage.' Here Antony is explaining that he
needs to break the bond between him and Cleopatra because he knows she
will ruin him. Later in that scene he says, '. . . I must from this
enchanting queen break off. . .' which shows that he feels strongly
about leaving Cleopatra but he is determined to do it. Enobarbus has a
strong and pleasant opinion of Cleopatra and shares it with Antony,' .
. . her passions are made of nothing but the finest part of pure love.
We cannot call her winds and waters...