The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra
The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
CAESAR 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 suggests that Antony is no better than his woman, and that Cleopatra is perhaps a little more manly than she should be. The gender ideals of Rome are all turned upside down in Egypt.
MAECENAS Now Antony must leave her utterly. ENOBARBUS Never! He will not. Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety. Other women cloy The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry Where most she satisfies; for vilest things Become themselves in her, that the holy priests Bless her when she is riggish. MAECENAS If beauty, wisdom, modesty, can settle The heart of Antony, Octavia is A blessed lottery to him. (2.2.235)
Maecenas and Enobarbus’s conversation highlights the contrast between Octavia and Cleopatra. They represent two different types, as linked to the ideals of their home cultures, and those cultures’ expectations and judgments of women’s gender identities. In Egypt, Cleopatra’s "riggishness," or her propensity for sex, is a thing to be blessed by the priests. Her sexual desire isn’t foul, but rather fits her nature (which isn’t foul either). Octavia, by contrast, is wise and modest, which is a comparison to Cleopatra’s rashness and flashiness. Still, the play doesn’t set these personal characteristics up in a hierarchy with one is better than the other.
ENOBARBUS [Aside to AGRIPPA] Will Caesar weep? AGRIPPA [Aside to ENOBARBUS] He has a cloud in's face. ENOBARBUS [Aside to AGRIPPA] He were the worse for that, were he a horse; So is he, being a man. AGRIPPA [Aside to ENOBARBUS] Why, Enobarbus, When Antony found Julius Caesar dead, He cried almost to roaring; and he wept When at Philippi he found Brutus slain. ENOBARBUS [Aside to AGRIPPA] That year, indeed, he was troubled with a rheum; What willingly he did confound he wail'd, Believe't- till I weep too. (3.2.51)
Enobarbus and Agrippa argue over the old question of whether "boys don’t cry" is part of their masculine identity. Caesar seems like he would weep as his dear sister leaves him, but Agrippa points out that Antony wept over Brutus’s dead body. Since these feelings don’t compromise strength, it seems that men are allowed to have feelings in Antony and Cleopatra.