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Antony and Cleopatra: The Role of Enobarbus in Acts I and II
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
(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 the
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