Notes on Antony and Cleopatra Themes

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Antony and Cleopatra Topic Tracking: Loyalty

Act 1

Loyalty 1: Even at the very beginning of the play, Antony's loyalty towards his fellow triumvirs is called into question because he is spending so much time in Egypt with his mistress, Cleopatra. Lepidus and Caesar wonder if he is truly loyal to them, or if his loyalty lies with Egypt because his lust has a stronger hold on him than his brain. He used to be a strong military leader, but it seems that they can no longer count on his loyalty.

Loyalty 2: Antony believes that Enobarbus's comments about Cleopatra indicate that she is of a disloyal nature; Enobarbus has seen her with many different men, having the same sexual appetite for them and the same passion and love that she seems to have with Antony. However, Enobarbus insists that she is not as fickle as it may seem; each time she falls in love, she is fiercely loyal to the object of her love, and Enobarbus advises Antony to trust in her and not to regret their love affair.

Act 2

Loyalty 3: Caesar distrusts Antony because not only has Antony been absent and did he refuse to come to Rome when Caesar first asked, his brother Lucius and his wife Fulvia had both made arguments with Caesar in Antony's name. In order for them to rule together, Caesar needs to trust that Antony will be loyal to him. The only way to guarantee that, then, is to forge them together with some unbreakable bond, and Agrippa proposes the way to do this: that Antony should marry Caesar's sister.

Loyalty 4: Menas believes that Pompey is being disloyal to the memory of his father by allying himself with the triumvirate, since they were the ones who defeated Brutus and Cassius for murdering Julius Caesar, who was the murderer of Pompey the Great.

Act 3

Loyalty 5: Antony assures Caesar that although there has been tension between them in the past, Caesar has never needed fear Antony's loyalty to him; and now, with the new marriage to Octavia, they promise to be great friends, and upon parting they wish each other well.

Loyalty 6: Now that Caesar and Antony are fighting again, Octavia is caught in an unenviable position; her husband and brother, two men to whom she traditionally owes her full loyalty, are on opposite sides. Antony encourages her to think about it and choose the man to whom she wants to be loyal on the basis of who deserves her love the most. He gives her permission to leave if she chooses, letting her out of the contract of loyalty she bears to him if this is what she wants.

Loyalty 7: Octavia had chosen to be loyal to Antony; however, upon returning to her brother and discovering that Antony has been in Egypt all this time, she changes her mind. Antony's disloyalty to her prompts her to return and give all of her loyalty to her brother.

Loyalty 8: Enobarbus battles with his own loyalty to Antony; although Antony is a good friend and has been a great military leader in the past, the recent news puts him at quite a disadvantage against Caesar. Many people have already gone over to Caesar's side, but Enobarbus reasons with himself that his loyalty to Antony, even if he does not win the war, is a moral victory over those who desert Antony and win with Caesar.

Loyalty 9: Antony hears that Cleopatra has told Thidias that she will bend to Caesar's noble rule, and walks in to discover that she is letting Thidias kiss her hand. He loses control out of anger for her disloyalty, and has Thidias whipped. We see here how important Cleopatra is to him; not only as a lover, but also as a strong ally whose loyalty he desperately needs.

Act 4

Loyalty 10: Enobarbus has lost the battle with himself to preserve his loyalty to Antony; though he tried to remain loyal, his desire to be on the winning side won him over, and he deserted Antony to go serve Caesar. He has chosen a military victory over a moral victory. Antony takes this news not as an indication of Enobarbus's character, for he calls him honest, but as an indication that his own fortune has caused this, and that it is a terrible shame that his luck should have affected the honesty of another man.

Loyalty 11: Though he has deserted Antony in the battle, Enobarbus's heart is loyal to the very end of his life; as he dies, he is calling Antony's name.

Loyalty 12: The second time he loses a sea battle, Antony's fleets have all deserted him to go over to Caesar's side and celebrate. Antony blames this on Cleopatra and says that she must have betrayed him; this is a higher form of disloyalty than Enobarbus, or anyone else, leaving him for Caesar because he is in love with Cleopatra as well as dependent on her for military victory. There is nothing that could happen that would be worse than her disloyalty to him, Antony reasons, and for this, she must die.

Loyalty 13: When Antony attempts to kill himself by falling on his sword, and does not die right away, he calls for help from his followers to finish the job. None of them will do it: the men who are with him at the end are by far the most loyal to him, and at this point, if all of the other things that happened have not dissuaded them from being loyal, they will not agree to kill him now. Eros would rather kill himself, indeed, then kill Antony or even live to see Antony's death.

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