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The Nile

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Egypt is represented by the natural world and is contrasted to the unnatural Roman world. Antony describes the wonders of the Nile that bring drought and lush harvests. Cleopatra meets Antony in all her grandeur as she floats down the Nile. Cleopatra reflects the richness of greens and blues of the natural world in her silver and gold jewelry. The Nile also has fury when its waters rise and swell, and Cleopatra evokes that same natural fury when she says she would rather be consumed by the flies and maggots of the river than be paraded through Rome. The natural world is as tempestuous as the two lovers: what it gives, it can also take away.

Animals of the Nile also figure heavily into this tale of two lovers. Antony invokes the wonder of the animal world when he tells Lepidus about the crocodiles of the river (which were thought to create themselves out of the mud of the Nile). Of course, it is a snake, not unlike the river snakes Antony describes, that is the source of Cleopatra’s death. The Nile represents the richness and poverty life has to offer and reflects the hot and cold passions of the lovers that, like the great river, carve out their own path.

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