Explore Shakespeare's Presentation of the Three Great Leaders: Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Through the Changing Fortunes of Acts Iii and Iv. Explain How the Balance of Audience Sympathy Shifts

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During the scenes depicting the Battle of Actium, Shakespeare's presentation of Octavius Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra cause the balance of audience sympathy to change between the three great leaders.

Audience sympathy never lies by any real amount with Caesar, and in Acts III and IV, the audience feels increasingly alienated from him. This is largely due to his calculated, ruthless style of leadership, which becomes more evident during the battle. Caesar judges wisely, and is successful because of this, and by Act III, Scene 7 he has already defeated Toryne – previously one of Antony's territories. In Act III, Scene 12, Shakespeare presents Caesar as a callous and cruel leader, as he hears the requests of Antony for peace and ignores them, declaring, "For Antony, / I have no ears to his request", which indicates his determination to destroy Antony. Additionally, Shakespeare further alienates the audience from Caesar through his display of his treacherous nature, "she / From Egypt drive her all-disgracèd friend / Or take his life there…From Antony win Cleopatra". This illustrates his sly, brutal and merciless nature, and further enforces the separation the audience feels from him. Moreover, Caesar's treachery creates a rift between Antony and Cleopatra, and this causes the audience's sympathy to shift even further away from Caesar. In addition, Shakespeare guides audience sympathy away from Caesar through the perfidious tactic that he uses of placing "those that served Mark Antony but late" at the front of the battle in order to demoralise Antony's army, and thus "fetch him in". Shakespeare directs the audience to feel sympathy with Antony and to pity him, rather than Caesar, as the audience believe Antony will be defeated in battle, as in Act IV, Scene 3, a company of Antony's soldiers claim to hear "Music i'th'air", which they view as a bad omen. Prior to the Battle of Actium sequence, the audience's view of Antony is one of a weak and feeble leader, who is being controlled and led by his affections for Cleopatra. However, during these scenes, the audience sympathy shifts towards Antony, and the audience's opinion of him changes. However, the audience still pities Antony instead of admiring him as a great leader, as he is portrayed in Acts III and IV as an "old ruffian" by Caesar and Enobarbus describes him as an old and defeated lion, " 'Tis better playing with a lion's whelp / Than with an old one dying". Antony makes the rash decision to fight the war at see against the advice of Enobarbus, "Your ships are not well manned", which leads the audience to feel that Antony is acting impetuously, and not like the great leader he once was. The hasty mistakes that Antony initially makes in this war are contrasted against Caesar's very calculating, clever tactics. Canidius, one of Antony's soldiers who deserts him for Caesar, declares "Our leader's led / And we are women's men" after Antony decides to fight by sea at the will of Cleopatra – this quotation echoes the imagery given in Act I, Scene 4, and the lack of confidence Antony's own soldiers have in their leader causes the audience to pity him still further. Antony's ill-advised decision to fight by sea is proved wrong when Cleopatra flees and Antony follows, leaving his own navy behind in a shameful defeat. In Act III, Scene 2, Antony displays his selfless and altruistic nature through telling his comrades to "Fly, / And make your peace with Caesar", and he offers them "a ship / Laden with gold", which shows his generosity and self-sacrifice, and endears him to the audience, causing the audience sympathy to shift towards Antony. Furthermore, to Enobarbus, Antony shows astounding philanthropy and benevolence as, despite Enobarbus' betrayal, Antony acts magnanimously and sends Enobarbus' "treasure, with / His bounty overplus" after him. During the scenes of war represented in Acts III and IV, the audience progressively feels pity for Antony, as Caesar has betrayed...
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