Antony and Cleopatra has been the greatest story of love in the history of the world. Written by William Shakespeare between the fiscal years 1603 and 1607, the text is a play that is characterized with war, struggles in power and political intrigues(II, i). In addition, this is a play that depicts the dilemma that two lovers had in their forbidden relationship. This essay seeks to understand how Cleopatra and Antony are heroic or self-deluded.
The entire novel depicts how Antony struggles with the clash between his functions in the Empire of Rome and his love for Cleopatra. The two depict heroism by choosing to defend the love they had for each other. For instance, in a conversation, Antony tells Cleopatra of the functions he has forsaken for the sake of their love. He further fears whether he will lose himself in the process of loving Cleopatra. For instance, Antony states, “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch / Of the ranged empire fall” (I.i.35–36). Antony has lost his wife as a result of the forbidden love. Antony has various inner conflicts that emerge from the story. First of all, he is worried of his desire to love Cleopatra and his desire to serve the empire.
From the perspective of Antony’s men, Antony depicts self delusion by lessening himself to a prostitute’s trap. Antony is a man absorbed in the luxurious eastern life and his desire to have Cleopatra. He disregards his functions in the Empire until his love affair with Cleopatra reaches climax. This life is cut short by the bad news he receives from various parts of the Roman Empire. Antony’s love affair conflicts with the marital vows he made to his wife. Despite this fact, he still manages to have an illegal affair with Cleopatra. This goes on until the time when he had the news of his wife’s death. This death made him realize how he had neglected his duties as a husband as per the Roman system. As a husband, he had the duty of protecting and being present for his wife in times of need. However, he was not able to be present when his wife and his brother made a war declaration on Octavius, Cleopatra’s husband. For instance, Antony states, “If I lose my honor, / I lose myself. Better I were not yours / Than yours so branchless” (III.iv.22–24)
Antony has been depicted by the author as a hero of the Roman people. When he defeated Cassius and Brutus, Antony became one of the top three leaders of the world. In his narration, he depicts his former days when he was a hero. He was considered as a formidable and dignified Roman soldier. Despite the fact that he was a ruler, he decided to live in Egypt with Cleopatra (II, i). The system requires a ruler to live in his kingdom and protect it from external enemies. This was not so for Antony who left his wife running the kingdom to be with Cleopatra. It was against the Roman system for a man to leave his wife to take care of his kingdom. Consequently, his actions resulted to the death of his wife.
Antony’s bravery is a key element in understanding his love for Cleopatra. He gave in to Cleopatra’s love the same way he performed his duties. This was against the norm because a soldier was supposed to be more loyal to his nation-state than a foreigner’s. Antony gave in to the pleasures of Egypt instead of defending his emperor from the attacks of Caesar. Antony confesses that Cleopatra’s love towards him is like a spell that has held him captive. He fails to recognize the conditions that he finds himself in as political and not personal. This love completely transforms him from finding pleasure in his Egyptian life. His love for Cleopatra overpowered him completely that he stopped his wild nature and life of pleasure. He fails to pay attention to the political affairs of his empire. Antony states, she is a woman “whom everything becomes—to chide, to laugh / To weep” (I.i.51–52)
Antony depicts self delusion by failing to attend to his duties as a leader. For instance, instance, Antony fails to do anything to Enorbarbus because of his love for Cleopatra. In the Roman Empire, treachery was a very serious crime. A person could even be hanged for performing such crimes. However, Antony fails to do anything and simply ignores the fact that Enrobarbus has joined the other side of the army (IV, v). When Antony perceives that he is about to loose the battle, he asks the men to leave. In addition, Antony thanks Enrobrabus for being loyal to him. This depicts how deluded Antony was by his love for Cleopatra. They are supposed to face whatever comes their way with such bravery and ensure that their nation state is safe from the enemies.
Despite the fact that Cleopatra does not have a sense of morals, she is heroic in her role as the queen of Egypt. Cleopatra was able to stand out amongst the women in the empire in the face of many faults. Cleopatra only wanted to use Anthony for political reasons. She did not truly love Antony as she depicted. In the whole play, Cleopatra is illustrated as a gipsy who is very lustful. This is depicted in the entire novel through a chorus (I.i.10). She is either a slave (I.iv.19), a contentious woman (I, I.50) or as a prostitute (III. VI 67). In addition, she is illustrated as enchantress who was able to bring down Anthony’s life. However, to look at Cleopatra from such a perspective would limit Cleopatra’s nature as a hero. To the Romans, Cleopatra had the ability to make them loose their kingdoms or their honor through her agency. Cleopatra was able to employ her beauty and her open approach to sexuality as a threat to the Roman Empire. Enorbarbus is keen to note that this outstanding nature that Cleopatra had was amazingly inspiring.
Cleopatra depicts heroism by choosing to betray Antony. This makes Antony desire to murder her when he realizes that he had been surrounded (IV, xii). The Egyptian fleet had surrendered to be on Caesar’s fleet’s side. By doing this, Cleopatra showed the Egyptians that all her actions were directed to ensuring that her empire prevailed against their enemies. However, Cleopatra was self delusional when she decided to hide instead of facing Antony. She decides to lock herself in a monument for betraying Antony. She decides to send a message to Antony through Mardian that she had killed herself (IV, xiii). When Antony hears of the news, he decides to murder himself. This is an act of heroism as he was able to defend the love that he had for Cleopatra. It was bravery for Antony to request his servant Eros to kill him. The name of his servant is symbolic as it depicts the end of lustful love. When he hears that Cleopatra is not dead, Antony requests that he dies in the arms of his lover Cleopatra (IV, xiv). This was a heroic act as he openly wanted to tell the whole empire of the love that he had for Cleopatra. In addition, it was heroic of Antony to do this besides the fact that Octavian wanted to kill him.
Though Antony views his death as an act of heroism, his death is an act of foolishness. This is because he permitted his lust for Cleopatra to bring him down. Antony has totally ignored various aspects of his weaknesses. For instance, he is controlled by both reason and lusts. Antony’s senses have lacked the ability to direct him in the right path. This nature depicts how reason has failed to govern the desires that human beings have. This passion proves to be disastrous as it causes Antony to make grave mistakes in his leadership. In addition, Anthony, a brave soldier was able to loose a war against Caesar (IV.ii.5–7). Furthermore, he was able to abandon his wife, Octavian thus breaking the alliance that the two empires had. The solution to this entire crisis would have been for Anthony to end his relationship with Cleopatra. However, Antony was not willing to do this. He preferred to die rather than loose the love of Cleopatra.
As of such, Antony and Cleopatradepict both self delusion and heroism in their love for each other. Through various examples from the play, these two aspects are depicted. Antony and Cleopatra end up dying honorably in a bid to defend the love that they had for each other.