40BC was the era of power politics, when major rivals were always at war, fighting to achieve their own goals and advance their cause.
When we begin the play, the first opposition that we face is that of Antony’s followers who are opposed to his actions because they are motivated by Cleopatra. Rome symbolizes order, conduct, governance. Adrian Goldsworthy asserts that Antony ‘risks everything to follow the heart’. Mark Antony lived an extravagant and comfortable lifestyle in 40BC. It was clear that Mark Antony made his decision to leave Egypt and abandon the life he’d earned by leaving behind all of his duties. Philo claimed Antony had been the ‘triple-pillar of the World, transformed’ into a strumpet fool. The metaphor ‘triple column’ represents Antony’s role in the Rome triumvirate. This paralleling of’strumpets Fool’ translated as “whores Jester” acts as tragic convention. Cleopatra’s tragic flaw is conveyed by Cleopatra as his hamartia. Keith Linley believes that Antony is a man who gives in to his emotions and ignores his duties. This opinion was supported historically when Antony left Rome for Egypt.
His supporters comment on his unusual emotional state, claiming that his passion has ‘O’erflowed the measure’. The John Munby 2014 production Antony and Cleopatra demonstrates this hyperbole by portraying Antony as a subordinate to Cleopatra. Antony is shown following her everywhere, and at any given time, with his body oriented towards Cleopatra. Cleopatra leaving Antony after the battle on sea is what his supporters say. The paradoxical statement shows that the Romans oppose Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra. They believe she has poisoned Antony’s mind and rendered him incapable of ruling. It is also true that Romans tried to smear Cleopatra by blaming her for the sudden weakness of their leader, and blamed it on sorcery, not infatuation.
Antony faces a number of political opponents. Adrian Goldsworthy says that ‘the younger generations were more active in politics’. This idea is supported by the quote ‘When We Debate/ Our Minor Difference Loud, We Do Commit/ Murder In Healing Wounds’. It shows Antony’s passivity to the turmoil, as he attempts to calm down the other members of the Triumvirate. Goldsworthy is also supported by the age difference between Antony and Lepidus. Lepidus’s quote, ‘They’re his shards. He’s their beetle.’ further illustrates the opposition’s political position. This anthropomorphism makes Lepidus look like an insect. It creates a mental image of Lepidus working hard while the others do nothing. Enobarbus’ belief that Antony, Octavius and their ‘beetle-like’ Lepidus are useless and worthless is demonstrated by the word shards which can be translated as ‘cowpats’. This view is traditional, as Lepidus was known for his approachable and friendly personality. Cleopatra even opposes Antony. Thidius delivers a Message from Octavian in Act 3 scene 13. Cleopatra tells Octavian that she kisses his hand as they exchange formalities. John Dryden explains that Antony feels offended when his lover says this. John Munby’s 2014 Antony and Cleopatra production strongly supports this assertion, as Cleopatra stops as shown by the insert ellipsis. The statement is given a promiscuous and suggestive tone by the ellipsis. The fact that the scene is post-abandonment on the sea adds to the effect, since it shows how she, who sacrificed her glory and empire for him, would already be courting his favour. Cleopatra is known to be seductive. She seduced Caesar before Antony by sneaking in and dressing a carpet in gold. This shows that shakespeare’s play is built around oppositions. Antony’s lover, for example, is often presented as an opposite.
Shakespeare builds his ‘Antony and Cleopatra’play around several opposing forces. The most notable of these is Antony’s supporters opposition to Cleopatra and Antony’s own political opposition. But the most fascinating of all of this opposition is the one that arises between Antony and Cleopatra.