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“Antony and Cleopatra” and “Coriolanus” by Shakespeare Essay

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Updated: Dec 25th, 2021

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra explains the context of misfortune by comparatively providing insight about misfortunes in life. Shakespeare has used Marc Antony and Coriolanus as the mainstream and relative objects of comparativeness. Through them, misfortunes in life are perceivable. According to Aristotle, the tragedy of the hero is as a result of his weakness becoming superior hence, he shows frailness in his judgment. This explains Coriolanus’ unfortunate life. In the play, Shakespeare projects life as a tragic cycle. He provides this viewpoint by brutalizing Coriolanus’ life and equally making tragedy as principal in his life.

Conversely, tragedy and misfortune appear to be prevalent intrinsically. The purpose is to provide a context of destiny in application. Misfortune are comparable to natural disasters, hence, one cant choose to have a disastrous rather circumstance compel one to live a life of chaos. Coriolanus is a perfect example of a man whose life is a path of disaster. In other words, this character was predestined for disaster. Another character, Antony, is indicative of how one can chose a path of personal destruction. Antony is rather an adventurous one. He finds himself entangled in a web of conflict and misfortune. His life is almost like that of Coriolanus, however, it is important to note, Coriolanus’ troubles are not self invoked rather natural while Antony’s are caused by his own ambition.

To understand this context, examining the differences and similarities in their lives will provide a comprehensive overview regarding how their lives dissent while their faculties correlate. It is important to note that both share the same platform as heroes and fighters of a noble cause. Unfortunately, the complex web of their travails and dissenting objectives is core to provide a viewpoint. While Cleopatra the queen of Egypt is brought to the fold to give the Shakespeare insight some panache, her role goes beyond providing the commonplace plot avenue. Cleopatra is a strategic character poised to give a specific view regarding relationships. Her relationship with Marc Antony from the Parthian war to her suicide is a typical Antony tragedy with Antony as a protagonist.

Octavius Caesar is an antagonist who to Antony is a close friend and later, an enemy and dictator who Rome should be rid. Caesar in this play is a major antagonist and will be the first emperor of Rome. The play leads you across a journey from Rome to Egypt’s Alexandria. The overall context is about how a woman’s power to possess a great man’s soul can declare the destiny of man. In Antony’s context, Cleopatra mesmerizes him and he forgot where his loyalties lay. Coriolanus’ love for his mother led him to plunder over the time brutalizing his life and condemning his destiny. We closely examine Marc Antony and Coriolanus lives through the themes of the play and in continuum, conceptualize the role of Caesar, Cleopatra, Lepidus, and others who directly affect the plays direction in principal.

Background

Shakespeare’s work is like a continuation of the Julius Caesar, where, after his assassination in 44 B.C, the formation of the triumvirate of Mark Antony, Octavius and Lepidus as the rulers of Rome. This triumvirate sets off to track armies of the assassin and when Egypt refused to join them, Antony summoned Cleopatra to Turkey (Cicilia) to explain Egypt’s defiance only to fall in love with her and return with her to Alexandria. Antony’s role as a leader unmistakably fails upon taking up the role of Cleopatra’s boyfriend. Cleopatra witch nature is what Shakespeare uses to characterize how a woman enslaves a man through love and commitment and a man’s selfish desire to satiate the ambition of conquering the woman.

Rome is under Octavius, he is a dictator, and he deposes Lepidus for becoming too cruel to Rome. He reckons to do the same on Antony when he returns to Alexandria to be with Cleopatra. Octavius defines Antony as a deserter. Antony allies with Cleopatra, an act that makes Octavius say he has deserted Rome and his wife. Octavius and Antony become foes and start fighting each other. Antony is seen as fighting against Rome. He nearly wins on land but when an Egyptian fleet involved in the fight surrenders, it becomes disastrous. He Denounces Cleopatra who he reckons betrayed him by surrendering.

Cleopatra tries to fool Antony by falsehood. She sends a messenger to inform him that she committed suicide calling out his name. Antony attempts suicide by ordering his servant Eros to kill him. Nevertheless, Eros declines to kill his master. Antony suicide attempt ends with his sword injuring his ribs. Cleopatra sends another messenger saying she was alive and Antony panged by love sets off in pain and frailty for her where he dies in her arms. Cleopatra, afraid of being a slave, commits suicide.

Coriolanus is another deceptive tragicomedy by Shakespeare. The play opens in Rome after Tarquin kings expulsion, riots going on over grains. Protesters are particularly angry with general Martius who they blame for grain loss and Brutus and Sicinius come into focus who denounces the general. The general however is endeared to the people again after successfully fighting an army under Cominius. In recognition of general Martius courage, Cominius appointed Caius Martius the Coriolanus making him Coriolanus.

Caius mother suggests and insists he view for consulship. Coriolanus is wary of this and he turns her down out of his fear. He accepts this and easily becomes popular with senate members and the people of Rome. Due to his record as a good soldier, he wins the support of Roman commoners too. Unfortunately, Brutus and Sicinius plan another evil plot that sees Coriolanus expelled from Rome. In his rage when the plot was executed, Coriolanus saw Brutus and Cicinius work through another riot in protest to his consul vying. The opposition makes Coriolanus angry. He ends up breaking the common law of Rome by speaking against the concept of law. Brutus and Cicinius condemn him and he is banished from Rome.

Coriolanus goes to the Volscian capital as his choice for exile. Here, looks for Aifidius. When he finally finds him, they reach an agreement that promises Volscian’s his readiness to lead the Volscian army against Rome. The assault is planned and Rome panics knowing very well, Coriolanus will lead victory against his own. Rome desperately tries to stop Coriolanus to no avail until his mother alongside his wife convinces him against it. Coriolanus instead signs a peace treaty between Volscian and Rome. When he returns to Volscian, Aufidius conspires and kills him for betraying the Volscians.

Similarities

In both cases the men die for their desire to commit to their women’s demands. Antony dies since he could not bear the news that Cleopatra was dead. He could not live without her. However, we deduce foolishness in Antony’s passion and frailty when he is with this woman. It is obvious that he looses his sense of responsibility and abandons his rightful place as a leader. Throughout his encounters with Cleopatra in Egypt, Antony is oblivious of his other world in Rome where he has a wife and people to rule. During his stay in Alexandria, Antony is charmed and forgets Rome and his cause.

Coriolanus on the other hand is a man who has principal and valor; unfortunately, he has enemies within his social class. He is a general whop is revered for his immense abilities in battle. He has been instrumental in keeping the enemies of Rome at bay. He earns himself valor for his tireless participation in battle and defeating armies of enemies. We note that courage and will to protect the sovereignty of Rome endears Coriolanus to the senate and the people of Rome. Though unconscious, Coriolanus does not indulge to the politics of Rome but continues with his life and role as a general until his mother coerces him to become consul. Sine he is loved for his deeds for Rome, he easily wins support but his enemies plot a scheme to frustrate his efforts.

Coriolanus is unable to resist his mother’s commands, turn down her wishes, let alone tell her off. When he plans to defeat Rome by leading the Volscian army, his mother is sent to negotiate peace with him. Coriolanus listens to his mother. We observe a trend of a woman’s power working against the will of man and his sanity. The man becomes oblivious of facts and agreements made between him and the Volscian’s’. He unconsciously follows his mother objective of peace with Rome. He abandons the Volscian advance on Rome and his promise of leading them to victory against Rome. Since he is banished from Rome, he returns to Volscian where an angry caboodle of leaders led by Aufidius accuses him of betrayal and kill him.

Both men die in foreign land. Their presence there was prompted by desire to follow a woman’s wishes. Antony sought Cleopatra and in the event of his stay with her, she led him to his death. Antony stabs himself and dies of his wounds in her arms. Coriolanus was banished from Rome after he adhered to his mother’s pressure to become consul. He was tricked to treachery by his archrivals Cicinius and Brutus. He was then expelled from Rome. He went to exile in Volscian where he plans to destroy Rome. We observe hatred and pain in both men as they turn against Rome. Coriolanus is killed for betraying the Volscian’s.

While both men die in foreign land, each death was because of their desires to please a certain woman in their lives. Antony felt indebted to Cleopatra who had committed suicide calling out for him. Coriolanus died in the hands of people he had betrayed by listening to his mother.

Both died in a time of war. Coriolanus had planned an onslaught on Rome while Antony was fighting Octavius. Their passion for woman and their valor in battle is compromised by the superior power of their treasured women. Antony loves Cleopatra that much that he dares kill himself. Coriolanus stops to go to war against Rome since his mother has requested him to do so since he is her son and that he should love her and respect her wishes only to get killed.

Both plays are by Shakespeare and they present Rome’s supremacy. Antony and Coriolanus are symbols of Rome’s great history and diverse influence across the world then. They die away from the same land they led and protected. Both are fighting against their homeland out of anger. Antony is fighting the dictator Octavius, a man he ruled Rome with and once was friends. Coriolanus was never friends with Brutus and Cicinius, but these two make the Coriolanus tragedy. While both men are loved and respected soldiers, they end up using their might as warriors against their own kinsmen.

Antony’s love for Cleopatra made him abscond his duties as leader of Rome and husband. This love ruled his life and led him to plunder. Coriolanus love for his mother allowed her mother to dictate his life. She made difficult choices for him and he ended up dying tragically and away from home. We see women dictating terms and conditions, forcing men to do what they want and subsequently, leading these men to their deaths and misery. The lives of these men are made tragic and painful. Men fail in meeting their obligations. Both leave behind windows, women they had legally married and loved. These women are left without their men to look up at.

Differences

In both plays, we observe a critical difference in the context of how the life of these men plays against them. Their roles differ in context. Antony is a leader and Coriolanus is a war general. Antony’s mistakes are grave and as a result of his own desires to satiate his needs rather than serve a cause. In Coriolanus, we see a highly respected soldier who is easy to love for he serves only the will of the people. Unfortunately, he is forced to fight against the people he served and loved after he is expelled falsely from his motherland. Here, Coriolanus was revenging his exile. He was bitter that his own people had betrayed him by turning against him. As a result, he turns against them and plans to destroy and conquer Rome using the Volscian armies who for many years had fallen to Roman brutal soldiers.

Antony is not fighting against Rome rather hoping to depose his dictator friend who is about to become a tyrant. As such, Antony is fighting to free Rome of a dictator while Coriolanus is objective to depose the Roman throne for turning against him through Brutus and Cicinius. Whereas Antony used to be a great leader, Cleopatra has devoured reason and valor from him. He is no longer committed to Rome rather for absolute power.

There is also a di in opinion. Antony does not need an opinion to consolidate power and people’s well wishes. He rather has his personality and great achievements to have the people think well of him. Unfortunately, Coriolanus has to work hard to consolidate power for himself and his mother. Unfortunately, various complexities arise and his popularity is shadowed by his actions against his people. The grain saga and the treachery are enough weapons against him. His war against Rome is completely different from Antony’s.

Their deaths

Both men die since they cannot free themselves from the influence of the women who have immense influence on them. This is a weakness, which is the root of their failures to excel as leaders. This foolishness of love leads them to death. Antony’s failure to commit Volumnia his wife is indicative of a weakness. This is frailty. Coriolanus cannot seek his own power rather he lives under his mother instruction. His desire to keep his mother abreast leads him to plunder. His wife’s role as his woman is shadowed by his mother’s immense influence.

In death, Antony dies for love not for any noble cause. He is frail for he is so trivial in his heart that a woman has decimated his reason, place in the society, and role as a husband. In death, Coriolanus dies a shameful death. He dies as a traitor who failed to identify with his place in the society. He was a leader and had he remained true to his word and ignored the role of his mother as his mentor, he could have won the respect and throne of Rome. Both men are frail. In context, Antony is driven by self-inspired beliefs and needs. Cleopatra does not specifically engineer his actions; rather he commits himself to satiate Cleopatra’s desires. On the other hand, Coriolanus tragedies are natural calamities. They are circumstances far beyond his abilities. He is under his mothers command. What his mother reckons fine, he does it collectively.

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