Enobarbus in Anthony and Cleopatra

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Enobarbus
Character analysis
Unlike other characters in Anthony and Cleopatra, Enobarbus does not
feature heavily in Plutarch ­ rather his character is almost wholly
Shakespeare's creation. Unlike the traditional tragedy Anthony and Cleopatra has no true chorus, the closest
we see to this is Enobarbus. He provides insights into the character's personalities via his outspoken and plain
speaking nature. Indeed we even see Caesar himself almost praising Enobarbus for his straight talking,
however out of place his speech may be. Enobarbus also connects the audience to the play via his use of
asides and soliloquy. He allows us to see the play from his perspective, giving a great insight into the other
characters. His is most famous for his paradoxical speech on Cleopatra whereby a usually misogynistic man
praises the character to the Egyptian queen. Whilst this is mainly based on Plutarch, the beautiful poetry is
Shakespeare's creation. He is also well known for his humorous interjections which are very similar to that of
Thersites from Troilus and Cressida, a fool with the unusual characteristic of making abusive remarks to all he
encounters. Enobarbus' death can be described as the most tragic point in the play ­ arguably he is the only
character who dies for love, and he is certainly the most likable, not just by the audience, but by other
characters also. His death is juxtaposed with Anthony's victory, emphasising the cruelty of his death.
Moreover, unlike the shame ridden Anthony and Cleopatra, Enobarbus is filled with guilt ­ dying in a ditch to
emphasise his lowly position as a traitor. Arguably it is he who makes a sad love affair into a tragedy.
Enobarbus contributes to the drama in a number of ways. Sympathetic to Antony from the start, his loyalty
and fellow feeling help to establish the humanity of his captain in the course of the action. When at the
beginning Antony says he wishes he had never met Cleopatra, instead of agreeing with him, he offers the
rejoinder that, had that been the case, Anthony would have missed "a wonderful piece of work". He does
not share, therefore, the perspective of his fellow Roman soldiers Philo and Demetrius in the opening scene.
In fact he is obviously enjoying life in Egypt and contributes to the relaxed humour of the Egyptian court, with
appreciative comments, too, on Cleopatra.
Enobarbus reminds Anthony and Caesar that there will be time enough to quarrel after they have disposed of
Pompey. To Antony's rebuke, "Thou art a soldier only. Speak no more", he boldly replies, "that truth should
be silent I had almost forgot". He is established here as an honest figure who gets to the heart of things and
is not afraid to speak his mind. His appreciation of Egypt and its queen, together with his wit and humour
make him the perfect vehicle for the exotic description of Cleopatra given to his peers from Caesar's
entourage. Coming as it does from him, this picture acquires a special authority. Though he is not a subtle
politician, he is not without tact when he tries to stop Pompey making remarks to Anthony about Julius
Caesar's relations with Cleopatra. He then tells Pompey that he does not like him much but is prepared to
give him his due. Pompey acknowledges his `plainnes' his honesty in speaking.
When it comes to the conflict, he tries unsuccessfully to persuade Cleopatra not to be present personally in
Anthony's camp and he argues forcefully against the decision to fight by sea. He reports the flight of
Cleopatra and after the naval disaster says that he will stay with Anthony though it is against reason. His first
thoughts of desertion, which he rejects, are prompted by Anthony's self-betrayal, partially acknowledged by
Anthony himself when he says "I have fled myself". When Cleopatra asks him who is to blame, he tells her
directly that nobody forced Anthony to follow when she flew; Anthony was to blame. Enobarbus' desertion
destroys him. His death in mental torment and the consciousness of disgrace is proof of the fact that

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Anthony's fortunes have corrupted honest men and gives a wider dimension to the tragedy of the
protagonists.
Everyone recognises that Enobarbus is in some sense a chronic figure. He comments on the action and
characters in every scene in which he appears, and we are bound to look at both through his eyes, even if we
recognise that his perspective is limited, and that it is not always, not necessarily, Shakespeare's own.…read more

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Context
Historically he was professional soldier who had had an important command under Pompey at the
battle of Pharsalia. If Shakespeare knew this fact from Plutarch's life of Pompey, he would know that
Enobarbus had changes sides and was not unduly concerned with the rights and wrongs of the side
for which he was fighting. In the life of Antony Domitius Enobarbus is introduced merely as an
illustration of the hero's generosity.
Plutarch implies that Enobarbus died of an ague.…read more

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Litotes: The opposite of a hyperbole where the significance of something is
understated.
Lyric: A short non-narrative poem that has a solitary speaker and that usually expresses a
particular feeling, mood, or thought.
Metaphor: A word which does not precisely or literally refer to the entity to which it is
supposed to refer.
Metre: The recurrence of a similar stress pattern in some or all lines of a poem.…read more

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Tragicomedy: A literary work which combines elements of both tragedy and comedy.
Tragicomic plays were quite common during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods of English
literature.
OCR Specification (sorry if you're under another board)
[This is directly from their website, word for word; so this bit isn't me]
Section A: Shakespeare
The focus of this section is the study of a Shakespeare play. Two essay questions are offered on
each text; candidates answer one question on the play they have studied.…read more

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If you have no critical interpretations I have been lovely enough to attach a few. I still
expect you to find some more. [10 marks]
A04: This is your context, the "history" bit. Talk about the opinions of contemporaries, or how their
culture would have affected the reading compared to our own. You can also include their opinions
on women, or how the use of God's in the play reflects different things.…read more

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