Nature, described as mysterious and secretive, is a recurrent theme throughout Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Cleopatra, the ill-fated queen of Egypt, is both mysterious and secretive, and her emotional power is above and beyond nature’s great strength. Whether described in a positive or in a negative manner, both nature and Cleopatra are described as being “great natural forces. ” Throughout the first act, the two are compared and contrasted by various characters in the play.
The first act, set in Alexandria, Egypt, sets the stage for the play and presents the majority of the actors. Scene two introduces one of the major themes of the play, Nature. This raunchy, innuendo- filled scene has two of Cleopatra’s close friends and one of Antony’s discussing her and Antony’s life. Charmian, one of Cleopatra’s best friends, Alexas, one of Cleopatra’s servants (as well as the link between her and Antony), Enobarbus, one of Antony’s trusted Lieutenants, as well as a Soothsayers are all present and discussing their fortunes.
During this discussion, the Soothsayer states, “ In Nature’s infinite book of secrecy/ A little I can read” (I. ii. 10-11). The Soothsayer explains to the others that there is little she can do outside of not only her powers, but also what nature allows her to. One of the first references to nature and the mystery that revolves around it, this quote simply demonstrates how little power the people have over something as great as nature. Nature and the elements surrounding it are simply a mystery to the people of Rome.
In his discussion with his commanding Lieutenant, Enobarbus refers to Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt and Antony’s soon-to- be lover, as a great natural force that is above nature’s powers. In the second scene of the first act, Antony states, “She is cunning past man’s thought” (I. ii. 145). This statement is then followed by Enobarbus’ statement about Cleopatra: “…her passions are made of noth/ing but the finest part of pure love. We cannot call her /winds and waters sighs and tears; they are greater /storms and tempests than almanacs can re- port.
This/ cannot be cunning in her; if it be, she makes a show’r of /rain as well as Jove” (I. ii. 146-151). In this quote, Enobarbus shows great respect and admiration towards Cleopatra. Not only does he defend her from Antony’s statement, but also he regards her with such high esteem that he compares her to Jove, the ruler of the gods in charge of rain, thunder, and lightning. In the latter part of the play, Cleopatra affirms the claim made by Enobarbus stating that her powers are greater that nature’s.
In scene 13 of the third act, she states, “Ah, dear, if I be so, / From my cold heart let heaven engender hail, / And poison it in the source, and the first stone/ Drop in my neck;” (III. xiii. 158-161). In her discussion with Antony, Cleopatra is openly asserting her “supernatural” powers that she believes she has. Not only does she believe she has supernatural powers, but she also believes that she is Egypt. Throughout the first act, various characters claim and make references to Cleopatra as being “Egypt” itself.
On page __________________. These claims are later affirmed several times towards the end of the play. In his discussion with Lepidus and Pompey, Antony states, “The higher Nilus swells. / The more it promises,” (pg. 56). In referring to Egypt and its conditions, Antony has made the comparison between Cleopatra and Egypt. In this quote, Antony states two things: That Egypt rises and falls along with Cleopatra, and Cleopatra is comparable to the nature of Egypt.
This statement not only makes the comparison between Cleopatra and Egypt, but by Antony obliviously stating that Cleopatra “is Egypt”, he reaffirms Cleopatra’s great natural strength. In Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, nature, the elements surrounding it and its mystery are continuously compared to Cleopatra. In several instances in the book, we see Cleopatra’s strength over God’s natural powers. Throughout the first act as well as in the latter acts of the novel, references are made to both nature and to Cleopatra’s powers over it.