Antony and Cleopatra



In Shakespeare's tragedy/history/Roman play Antony and Cleopatra,

we are told the story of two passionate and power-hungry lovers. In

the first two Acts of the play we are introduced to some of the

problems and dilemmas facing the couple (such as the fact that they

are entwined in an adulterous relationship, and that both of them are

forced to show their devotion to Caesar). Along with being introduced

to Antony and Cleopatra's strange love affair, we are introduced to

some interesting secondary characters. One of these characters is

Enobarbus. Enobarbus is a high-ranking soldier in Antony's army who it

seems is very close to his commander. We know this by the way

Enobarbus is permitted to speak freely (at least in private) with

Antony, and often is used as a person to whom Antony confides in. We

see Antony confiding in Enobarbus in Act I, Scene ii, as Antony

explains how Cleopatra is "cunning past man's thought" (I.ii.146). In

reply to this Enobarbus speaks very freely of his view of Cleopatra,

even if what he says is very positive:



...her passions are made of

nothing but the finest part of pure love. We cannot

call her winds and waters sighs and tears; they are

greater storms and tempests than almanacs can report.

This cannot be cunning in her; if it be she makes a

shower of rain as well as Jove.

(I, ii, 147-152)



After Antony reveals that he has just heard news of his wife's

death, we are once again offered an example of Enobarbus' freedom to

speak his mind, in that he tells Antony to "give the gods a thankful

sacrifice" (I.ii.162), essentially saying that Fulvia's death is a

good thing. Obviously, someone would never say something like this

unless they were in very close company. While acting as a friend and

promoter of Antony, Enobarbus lets the audience in on some of the myth

and legend surrounding Cleopatra. Probably his biggest role in the

play is to exaggerate Anthony and Cleopatra's relationship. Which he

does so well in the following statements:



When she first met Mark Antony, she

pursed up his heart, upon the river of Cydnus.

(II.ii.188-189)



The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,

Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;

Purple the sails, and so perfumed that

The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were

silver,

(II.ii.193-197)



And, for his ordinary, pays his heart

For what his eyes eat only.

(II.ii.227-228)



Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety....

(II.ii.237-238)



In these passages, Enobarbus turns Antony's and Cleopatra's

meeting into a fairy tale and leads the audience into believing the

two are inseparable. His speeches in Act II are absolutely vital to

the play in that this is what Shakespeare wants the audience to view

Antony and Cleopatra. Also, in these passages, Cleopatra is described

as irresistible and beautiful beyond belief -- another view that is

necessary for us to believe in order to buy the fact that a man with

so much to lose would be willing to risk it all in order to win her

love. Quite possibly, these passages may hint that Enobarbus is

himself in love with Cleopatra. After all, it would be hard to come up

with such flowery language if a person were not inspired. Enobarbus

may be lamenting his own passions vicariously through the eyes of

Antony. This would be convenient in questioning Enobarbus' loyalty,

which becomes very important later on in the play (considering he

kills himself over grief from fearing he betrayed his leader). The

loyalty of Enobarbus is indeed questionable. Even though we never hear

him utter a single disparaging remark against Antony, he does

admit to Menas that he "will praise any man that will praise me"

(II.iii.88), suggesting that his honor and loyalty may just be

simple brown-nosing. Shakespeare probably fashioned Enobarbus as a

means of relaying information to the audience that would otherwise be

difficult or awkward to bring forth from other characters (such as

Cleopatra's beauty and the story of her betrayal of Caesar), but he

also uses him as way to inject some levity and humor in the play,

showing the characters eagerness to have a good time. Evidence of this

comes in Enobarbus' affinity for drunkenness. In both Act I and Act II

Enobarbus purports the joys of drink:



Bring in the banquet quickly: wine enough

Cleopatra's health to drink.

(I.ii.13-24)



Mine, and most of our fortunes,

tonight, shall be --