"His taints and honours / Waged equal with him"

Throughout the play there is a sense that there are two separate Antonys: the ageing playboy, and the mythical hero. However posthumously the two seem to be reconciled as his over-fond "dotage" is assimilated with his flashes of greatness "The triple pillar of the world" and he is seen as a great human, neither preternatural nor foolish but "the arm and burgeonet of men". Ironically it is Caesar who makes this fusion.

The misconception of Antony as a fading libertine is understandable: he shirks his duties "News, my lord, from Rome" - "Grates me!" and Caesar's description of him "tippling with a slave" is corroborated by Cleopatra's "'Ere the ninth hour, I drunk him to his bed". The revels of Alexandria are infamous, and the temperate Romans can only guess at them "You've strange serpents there?" asks Lepidus, and their voyeuristic and condemnatory attitude to his pursuits in Egypt does make Antony appear weak: " He hath given his potent regiment / To a trull". Especially at the beginnig of the play, it is difficult not to share the Roman point of view of Antony as and immoral hedonist whose achievements are behind him.

However, the Antony we see in adversity is far more impressive. The disasterous loss of face at Actium brings self-knowledge: "We have kissed away kingdoms and provinces" and also brings out his generosity: "Be gone. My treasure's in the harbour. Take it.". Antony's awareness of his own flaws, and respect for others contribute to our understanding of his greatness, and his awareness of his debt to fate - "Fortune and I part here" - also make us appreciate that he could be deserving of the panegyrics his character receives. However, the play is about "greatness going off", and Shakespeare seems to show his humanity, and to flesh out a man who is undignified and sometimes foolish, yet overall, a great mortal.

For further reading see:

Wilson Knight, G., The Imperial Theme - explains how Anotny and Cleopatra's love can be seen as transcendental

Holloway, J., Antony .

  By PanEris using Melati.

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