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Shakespeare's Use Of Language In Antony And Cleopatra

2734 words - 11 pages

Shakespeare's Use of Language in Antony and Cleopatra

Enobarbus uses the phrase "infinite variety" to describe the beauty
and wonder of Cleopatra to Agrippa and Maecenas in Act 2 Scene 2. In
the context of the whole play I believe it is a perfect description of
how Cleopatra uses the different aspects of her character. Shakespeare
uses language, imagery and structure to show the different sides of
her personality. This allows Cleopatra to be interpreted in many ways
by the actress and the audience.

One of the ways Shakespeare presents Cleopatra throughout the play is
as a queen. Cleopatra's language emphasises her royal status in Act 3
Scene 7 when she says "as the president of my kingdom" to Enobarbus
before the battle of Actium. Using the phrase "my kingdom" to refer to
Egypt highlights her power and authority, which is used to win the
argument with Enobarbus over her involvement in the battle. This shows
how Cleopatra changes her character to best suit the situation. In
both Antony and Cleopatra's final scenes Cleopatra is shown by
Shakespeare to be a queen rather than a woman or lover. In Act 4 Scene
14 the character of Antony says to Cleopatra "I'm dying, Egypt,
dying", this presents her as primarily a queen and a ruler. I believe
this is of further importance to Cleopatra's presentation because
Antony's death is of great significance and what is said will have
more of an impact on the audience. Shakespeare also shows Cleopatra as
a queen in her own death scene. Cleopatra desires to die in royal
clothing when in Act 5 Scene 2 she commands "Give me my robe; put on
my crown". Without any action on stage the language alone is enough to
create an image of Cleopatra looking very regal. The language involves
two short precise sentences, which suggests that Cleopatra has a clear
intention to die like a queen. The structure of the play encourages
the audience to compare the two death scenes. This emphasises
Cleopatra's royalty as the royal aspects of her death are accentuated
in contrast with Antony's farcical death scene. However Cleopatra is
not always content to fill her role as queen and this continues the
theme of identity that runs throughout the play.

In contrast to her death scene there are times in the play where
Shakespeare presents Cleopatra as being no different to any other
woman. As Antony prepares for his second battle with Caesar in Act 4
Scene 4 he refers to Cleopatra as "my chuck" and "Dame" which are
colloquial terms of address. This makes Cleopatra and her relationship
with Antony seem very typical as he is using the same everyday
language as normal people. The way Antony leaves her with a "soldier's
kiss" increases the sense of normality in the scene. This is because
the language suggests he is leaving her as a simple soldier would
leave his wife or lover....

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