Cleopatra and Anthony

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Topics: Mark Antony
What does this passage suggest about the relationship between Cleopatra and Antony? Compare this with how the relationship is portrayed in the other written source material from the classical period in Book 1, Chapter 1.

The relationship portrayed in the extract, between Anthony and Cleopatra seems at first to be one sided. Anthony is depicted as an ‘insensitive brute with a heart of stone’ in comparison to Cleopatra who is ‘utterly devoted to him alone’. This show of devotion is a continuous theme in the passage and is further illustrated by the fact that she ‘was content to be called his mistress’ whilst she was the ‘sovereign of many nations’ unlike his wife who married Anthony out of political convenience. References are made to that idea that Anthony’s refusal of Cleopatra ‘would be the death of her’ further illustrates this. Later in the passage Anthony is shown to have been ‘melted and unmanned’ by this show of affection and that ‘he began to believe that she would take her own life’. This is shown to be true by that fact that he ‘returned to Alexandria and put off his Median expedition’ even though this would have a detrimental effect on his military activities in Parthia which ‘was said to be greatly weakened by internal dissensions’. This seems to show that although Anthony had many pressing issues to contend with he was willing to put the issue of Cleopatra’s well being before personal gain and return to be by her side.

In comparison to other written material concerning Anthony and Cleopatra’s relationship the first extract focuses on personal feelings and their romantic relationship which is implied to be reciprocated by both parties. Plutarch shows the relationship in an entirely different light, in which Anthony is bewitched by Cleopatra. Anthony is ‘excited to the point of madness’ and his ‘many passions which had hitherto lain concealed’ were drawn out of him implying that Cleopatra was a corrupting influence. Any redeeming qualities



References: Look carefully at Plate 1.3.5, Paul Cézanne, Bathers (c.1894–1906), and Plate 1.3.6, Palma Vecchio, Bathing Nymphs (c.1525/8), in the Illustration Book. Discuss what you think are the most significant differences between the two paintings.

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