Antony and Cleopatra - Extended Response on Conflict

Antony and Cleopatra – Extended Response
Bridget Marcovich

Conflict is a major theme of William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. It emerges in many forms, from the political conflict between Mark Antony and Octavius Caesar to the personal conflict between Antony and Cleopatra and even the inner conflict of most of the characters in the play. Shakespeare effectively portrays this conflict in a variety of ways.

Mark Antony is one of the central characters in Antony and Cleopatra and could be described as having the most inner conflict. In fact, his inner conflict is responsible for many of the events in the play. Antony is torn between his duties to the Roman Empire and his love for Cleopatra, the leader of Egypt. He is visibly pulled back and forth between responsibility and desire and we can see this in his constantly differing opinions. In the beginning of the play, Antony pledges his love for Cleopatra, declaring: “Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch/Of the ranged empire fall!” (Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 35-36). This and his immediate dismissal of Caesar’s messenger illustrate Antony’s seeming disinterest in his responsibilities as a leader of the Roman Empire. However soon after, Antony is lamenting the death of his wife Fulvia and vows to “from this enchanting queen [Cleopatra] break off.” (Act 1 Scene 2 Line 125).

Eventually, Antony’s inner conflict again draws him back to Egypt and Cleopatra. His love for her allows Antony to be influenced by Cleopatra. In Act 3 Scene 7, at Cleopatra’s prompting, Antony decides to confront Caesar at sea rather than on land where they have the advantage. Canidius says: “So our leader’s led,/And we are women’s men.” (Act 3 Scene 7 Lines 68-69). These lines reflect the effect that Cleopatra has on Antony and emphasizes the emotional side of his inner conflict.

Another form of conflict is the personal conflict between the main characters of the play, Mark Antony and Cleopatra. As the two are from very different...