The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra
Contrasting Regions Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
But stirr'd by Cleopatra.
Now, for the love of Love and her soft hours,
Let's not confound the time with conference harsh:
There's not a minute of our lives should stretch
Without some pleasure now. What sport tonight? (1.1.43)
Antony’s reputation at one time rested on his noble work as a soldier, with all the Roman austerity and severity that came with it. His life in Egypt (or his love) has transformed him into a man that wants pleasure all the time, which is indulgent, but also completely contrary to the Roman way.
You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,
It is not Caesar's natural vice to hate
Our great competitor. From Alexandria
This is the news: he fishes, drinks, and wastes
The lamps of night in revel; is not more manlike
Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy
More womanly than he; (1.4.1)
Caesar criticizes Antony’s decadent actions in Egypt, but the hint is that these are things natural to Egypt (and thus unbefitting a Roman). This decadence is also characterized by its femininity, which is linked to an Eastern way of life, and a polar opposite to the Roman austere ideal, which is linked to masculinity.
'Good friend,' quoth he
'Say the firm Roman to great Egypt sends
This treasure of an oyster; at whose foot,
To mend the petty present, I will piece
Her opulent throne with kingdoms. All the East,
Say thou, shall call her mistress.' (1.5.42)
Antony, in a very chivalrous fashion, sends his love to Cleopatra. He presents her a decadent bauble of a pearl (befitting the East), but it’s important that as he sets on his journey out of Egypt, he identifies himself as a "firm Roman." He goes as a soldier, and thus is leaving behind the decadence that characterized his life in Egypt, trading it for Roman austerity. He hasn’t forgotten her (and the East) in spite of this transformation; hence the gift.