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Cleopatra and Anthony

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What does this passage suggest about the relationship between Cleopatra and Antony? Compare this with how the relationship is portrayed in the other written source material from the classical period in Book 1, Chapter 1.

The relationship portrayed in the extract, between Anthony and Cleopatra seems at first to be one sided. Anthony is depicted as an ‘insensitive brute with a heart of stone’ in comparison to Cleopatra who is ‘utterly devoted to him alone’. This show of devotion is a continuous theme in the passage and is further illustrated by the fact that she ‘was content to be called his mistress’ whilst she was the ‘sovereign of many nations’ unlike his wife who married Anthony out of political convenience. References are made to that idea that Anthony’s refusal of Cleopatra ‘would be the death of her’ further illustrates this. Later in the passage Anthony is shown to have been ‘melted and unmanned’ by this show of affection and that ‘he began to believe that she would take her own life’. This is shown to be true by that fact that he ‘returned to Alexandria and put off his Median expedition’ even though this would have a detrimental effect on his military activities in Parthia which ‘was said to be greatly weakened by internal dissensions’. This seems to show that although Anthony had many pressing issues to contend with he was willing to put the issue of Cleopatra’s well being before personal gain and return to be by her side.

In comparison to other written material concerning Anthony and Cleopatra’s relationship the first extract focuses on personal feelings and their romantic relationship which is implied to be reciprocated by both parties. Plutarch shows the relationship in an entirely different light, in which Anthony is bewitched by Cleopatra. Anthony is ‘excited to the point of madness’ and his ‘many passions which had hitherto lain concealed’ were drawn out of him implying that Cleopatra was a corrupting influence. Any redeeming qualities were ‘stifled or corrupted’ and he was no longer ‘capable of resisting temptation’ which was seen in Roman society as being against traditional Roman virtues.

Plutarch continues to place the blame with Cleopatra almost excusing Anthony of any wrong doing in this series of events. Cleopatra is shown to be extravagant and that she ‘treated him with such distain’ whilst it also appeared that she was attempting to make a ‘mockery of his orders’ when she was summoned to see him in Tarsus. The description of Cleopatra’s entry to Tarsus tries to paint a picture of indescribable wealth and luxury, ‘a poop of gold’ , ‘oars of sliver’ and Cleopatra reclining ‘beneath a canopy of cloth and gold’ contrast with Anthony who was at the market place ‘enthroned on his tribunal until he was left sitting quite alone’. This is trying to show a lack of respect shown by Cleopatra to the noble Roman Anthony.

In conclusion the first extract shows Anthony and Cleopatra in an equal light, exposing how they both feel towards their relationship and how it changed over time. Later sources especially Plutarch show Cleopatra as a bad influence on the noble roman Anthony and how she lacked respect for Rome and its status.

Look carefully at Plate 1.3.5, Paul Cézanne, Bathers (c.1894–1906), and Plate 1.3.6, Palma Vecchio, Bathing Nymphs (c.1525/8), in the Illustration Book. Discuss what you think are the most significant differences between the two paintings.

There are many differences between to two paintings, technique, stylisation setting and use of colour.

The setting of each image is very different; Palma uses a traditional classical setting which is typical of paintings involving nudes. Cezanne places his nudes in a less typical setting and they also adopt less statuesque poses. Cezanne’s nudes also lack the traditional notions of female beauty with a variety of body shapes on display from slim to fuller rounder forms in comparison to Palma who strictly adheres to the traditional form.

Cezanne’s use of delineation and modelling when producing the nudes and background differs greatly from the technique used by Palma. Cezanne’s nudes lack a well defined anatomical shape and appear to representations rather than actual figures whereas Palma tries to create a more lifelike feel to his nudes as if he were attempting a photographic reproduction. Palma’s nudes include facial expressions which convey their thoughts and feelings and Cezanne leaves this open to the viewers own interpretation. The tone variation in both images vary greatly but in Cezanne’s image the tonal differences are more stark and contrasting and are placed closer together, Palma on the other hand used a more gradual change in tones throughout the image.

Palma creates a picture plane that makes the viewer feel as if they are seeing the image through a window or defined space and that nothing of importance lies outside of this area. Cezanne’s image gives the impression that it is a section chosen out of a larger area and that there might be more things happening outside of this. The composition of this image allows us to imagine this more vividly. Palma has nudes either side of the image that form a boundary outside of which there seems to be nothing else. Cezanne’s nudes dominate the centre of the canvas but don’t enclose the image at either side giving a more open expansive feeling.

This contrasts with Palma’s image as the nudes are densely packed together and closer to the front of the image rather than each having their own space within a deeper scene. The brush strokes used also bring the viewer back to the canvas rather than letting you drift away into the image making the literal surface of the canvas part of the experience. Palma uses smooth brush stokes that are nearly unidentifiable, the surface is smooth and each brush stroke blends into the next which adds to the photographic quality of the image which once again transports the viewer into the image and makes it easier for you to imagine that you are looking on this scene in actuality. Cezanne deliberately makes this impossible to achieve as every time you view the image you are brought back to the canvas and the use of oil paint and brush strokes. Each brush stoke is clearly visible and distinct lending a mosaic quality to the finished painting.


Reputations – The Arts Past and Present : Elaine Moohan, chapter 1, Cleopatra ,Trevor Fear, The Open University

Scott Kilvert 1965 p25, p293

Plutarch, Life of Antony 53; quoted from Scott-Kilvert, I. (trans.) Plutarch: Makers of Rome, Harmondsworth, Penguin, p. 320.

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