Antony and Cleopatra
Roman Virtue versus Egyptian PleasureThe value systems represented by these two systems are in a contrasting manner where both represent extremes of societal moral and social values. Antony and Cleopatra are the two forms of value systems that are used in a dramatic presentation to illustrate the type of life and value system in existence in both societies. They portray a play characterized by contrasts which leads to conflicts between individuals and a larger background of people extending and involving West and the East.
The conflicts and contrasts are between Rome which is symbolized by the Octavius Caesar and Egypt embodied by Cleopatra. These illustrations were captured by Antony while in the middle. The play is demonstrated and utilizes two major components which represent the two sides of life an analogy which reflects the value systems that are exhibited by different societies. This mode of thought presentation is also highly used by other writers, authors and editors in all their works to bring out the required notation of their thoughts and writing with a desire to portray the intended purpose, for instance, Shakespeare’s plays were characterized by couple of names lime Romeo and Juliet, Cressida and Troilus (Denis 2003, p 1).The intentions presented in these two notions are to demonstrate the inequality relationships that occur between these two situations in considerations. The plays begins with entry of Cleopatra and Antony in the conference room when the Roman messenger enters and gets them discussing of how much Antony loves the queen.
However Antony responds and says, “I don’t have anything to do with the Roman News,” this provokes Cleopatra to confront Antony and forces him to respond to the greetings. After a length discussion, Antony response to their discussion is very disheartening when he says, “Rome means nothing to me and I would return there soon.” Mostly many of these stories presented the strength and superiority of feminine figure as opposed to the predominant masculine. Therefore, the presentation of the latter notion is viewed as an ambiguity and a paradox in the natural settings. The presentation of Antony and Cleopatra is not an exemption to this rule where it’s viewed as tragedies representing fatal attraction.
The story presented is introduced by a combination of internal conflicts and open quarrels. It’s the Cleopatra who initiates the scene to Antony through his unexpected decision to run for Rome, a decision seen and regarded reached from jealous motives and intentions. The propelling drive for Cleopatra is seen to be his late wife who was not only stubborn but also hard headed. Regardless of how hard the racist notions and words may be placed in Roman mouths and thoughts towards Cleopatra, it proves futile since the antiquity is mostly considerate of other issues as opposed to racism with a consideration that the only difference that exists between nations and people is either cultural superiority or inferiority which is influenced by from which perspective its considered from (Denis 2003, p 1).The futility of all efforts to embed racism is due to its foreign nature which originated from the periods of colonialism formally from the Renaissance. This fact therefore did not give racism a strong foundational basis to be used against the contrasting side hence preventing an emergence of a conflict.
However the return of Antony in Rome is driven by the major motive of avenging the death of his father at a time when civil war was brewing. After Cleopatra exits the room, Antony is joined by the soothsayers who describes Antony’s situation by saying, “your stay in Egypt will force Caesar to overshadow you, therefore you should return to Rome and leave plenty of space between you and Caesar.” Antony however although dismissed the fortuneteller says, “I will resign and return to Rome but East is home of my pleasure lies.” The situation is greatly complicated when the services, skills and experience of Antony are greatly required in Rome at the very specific time when civil war broke. To demonstrate the respect and honor Romans accorded to Antony; his return was welcomed by an urgent summit conference that was hurriedly organized for his honor by the triumvirate to demonstrate a state of democracy in Rome which was purported to be advocated between Caesar and Antony, this was not the situation since it was used and greatly used as a masterpiece of irony.
The dissolute life in Egypt was regarded hard enough to have softened Antony’ perceptions and thoughts, to conform to Pompey’s wish which was inclined more to Machiavellian associated closely with Julius Caesar. On the other hand, Octavius was more moderate and considered as a political novice although he was a fast learner (Rex 45).Romans did not hold anything against the Egyptians well demonstrated by the Antony willingness to marry Octavia who was the dearest sister to Caesar. However, on the other hand Caesar representing Cleopatra was cunning and they reluctantly agreed the Antony’s marriage with a motive to corner him and place him in a deadly trap. Cleopatra is advice to exploit the opportunity by Maecenas, “Use this moment of Antony’s rage, Therefore Caesar’s motives and intention to allow the proceeds of or never anger / made good guard for itself,” marriage with Antony was not for love but for his own political reasons at the expense of the involved partners which Antony did not recognize at the first place.
In Rome marriage was considered less important with wives regarded as reproductive substances and nothing more. In Roman customs and value societal systems, any marriage could be terminated easily by divorce. Marriages could also be terminated by repudiation which rendered marriage institutions worthless and their value considered less important in the Roman society unlike what was considered of marriage in Egypt. Unlike the Egyptian freedom of marriage and choice, this did not exist in Rome marriage followed a stipulated way and manner besides following some endorsements from the authorities giving a go ahead with the marriage institution and ceremony to precede (Denis 2003, p 1).Moral decadence was so evident when men could exchange their wives and sometimes lent them to other men demonstrating the highest level of moral absence and low regard of marriage institution especially during Julius Caesar’s time. The justification for this practice was advanced as sex liberation which was so rampant during this period where no man was committed to his marriage and only required a woman for reproduction and sexual gratification purposes.
The play demarcates clearly the distinction of several characteristics that were exhibited by the various value systems between the East representing Egypt and the West representing Rome. Roman politics were regarded as a duty both to the state and individual life involving all his family and other involved parties. This was however not the case in the East since political involvement was part of leisure and never considered vital. Life in Rome was decent and characterized by frugality and austerity while the Easterners considered wealth as part of their life which was accompanied by gluttony. Romans believed by virtue in human interactions while Egypt was guided by vice especially debauchery and lust without consideration of other people’s welfare and personal life.
Discipline was a virtue that was highly esteemed in Rome and guided the relations between human beings offering respect for each other; however, this was not the case for life in Egypt which was full of confusions and laxity where respect was not considered as important (Denis 2003, p 1).The practices of personal liberties and rights were not only important and measured in Rome, but also regarded as sacred which greatly supported the value of life resulting to greatness and imperialism. On the other hand, Egypt life was that of excessiveness without any slight measure and control as demonstrated in the play resulting to decadence and weakness eroding all the moral values and systems that holds society together. The value systems and considerations in Rome were mostly necessitated by the socio – economic and political circumstances like the unending civil wars rendering Rome to have weak systems and international position heightening the need for regulations. This was not the case with Egypt which witnessed relatively long duration without unrest therefore relaxed their regulatory mechanisms.
Cleopatra introduces the decadence that was inherent in Egypt to Rome and went further to influence Antony to the behaviors. Antony is so engulfed to them to point that he eliminates his wife Octavia and he reports to Cleopatra. To the surprise of Antony, Cleopatra blames him for his sister death forgetting he is the one who introduced Antony to the Egyptian lack of value system. The lavish life practiced in Egypt was still introduced in Rome by Cleopatra who was always dressed in gold robes which represented frescoes and statues. In response to how the East and West responded to war is very different since Rome experienced unrests especially during Caesars’ reign (Denis 2003, p 1).When the outbreak of war was so rampant, Caesar’s army and navy men reached Egypt with speed representing a sharp contrast while compared with the Egyptian sloth.
The suspicion existing between Antony and Caesar is so rampant that Antony complains to Octavia, “Since I departed from Rome, Caesar has not only waged war against Pompey but has also belittled me in public.” The Roman virtues are demonstrated by Antony when he becomes submissive and declines all his ambitions to the favor of Cleopatra who ordered him to start the fight by attacking from the sea which was against all odds and advices Cleopatra had received from his military advisers. Despite Antony’s residence in Egypt for a number of years and support from Cleopatra, he never developed the courageous virtue and war like character inherent in Egyptians; this is clearly demonstrated by his actions of abandoning the whole army which results to disastrous defeat of Cleopatra’s army (Denis 2003, p 1).