Study Guide

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Transformation

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Transformation is a tricky theme in Antony and Cleopatra. Because characters seem to transform at the drop of a hat, the legitimacy of these transformations is always in question. That's right, it's the timeless question: Are they being real, or are they being fake? In the end, we’re not sure if the characters have transformed, or merely acted rashly in accordance with their passions. Further, we have to ask whether the characters want to transform, or whether they’re victims of their circumstances. We're gonna pull an Avril Lavigne right now and ask these guys: "Why you gotta go and make things so complicated"?

Questions About Transformation

  1. In Antony and Cleopatra, Characters are constantly changing their minds about love, war, and loyalty. Are any of these transformations serious ones? Or are passionate, momentary transformations likely to be reversed at a moment’s notice?
  2. The play revolves around the fact that Antony is transformed by his love for Cleopatra. Does Cleopatra change at all because of her love for Antony?
  3. Enobarbus is a character entirely fabricated by Shakespeare, and his turn from Antony to Caesar’s camp is one of the greatest transformations of the play. What does Shakespeare’s fictional character add to the play? In what respect is he transformed, and why is his transformation important?
  4. Antony often jumps from being furious with Cleopatra, to being madly in love with her. Because he goes back and forth so often, can we trust any of his transformations? Does he have any significant or permanent transformations throughout the play?

Chew on This

Cleopatra is not transformed at all during the play. At Antony’s death, her decision to murder herself is just another one of her flighty choices made in passion, without any staying power. It’s only because she knows Caesar will march her in his victory parade that she actually kills herself, not because of the transformation she claims to have over Antony’s death.

Antony is transformed into a lovesick fool by Cleopatra, losing all of his soldierly honor as a result. He must kill himself because this transformation is an irreversible one, and because he realizes that Cleopatra has given him nothing to live for in exchange for his honor.

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