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Cleopatra

In: English and Literature

Submitted By zeezel
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Part 1: Cleopatra

How does this passage characterise the relationship between Anthony and Cleopatra and how does this compare to its portrayal in other Roman sources in Book 1, Chapter 1?

During the first section, of the passage, taken from Plutarch, Life of Anthony, Anthony witnesses the abandonment of his Calvary, to the enemy of men that he was fighting for the sake of Cleopatra. He undoubtedly feels let down and betrayed, and shows his anger amid the city. However, Cleopatra then secludes herself in fear, of him, and sends word, to Anthony, that she is dead.

The writings in this passage depict how deeply manipulated and confused Anthony was therefore portraying him as weak man, but also portray Cleopatra as a lovesick female, afraid of her lovers anger, locks herself away, lies about her death, thus resulting in Anthony’s death.

Plutarch’s writings tell us that there was no love lost between the two and that their relationship was not genuine, that “the Roman world did not value romantic love” (OU: Book 1: Reputations: page 11), that Anthony’s so called “love” for Cleopatra was more of lust than real affection. The negativity in this passage does not show the courageous, independent queen or the strong, manly soldier that society and movie directors, of the past and present, would have us believe, instead it tells us that man is capable of a love that is strong enough to render him helpless.

Cassius Dio, another Roman historian portrays Anthony as somewhat of a deserter. Leaving behind his Roman heritage to “embrace alien and barbaric customs” (OU Book1: Reputations –Resources page27 line 16) i.e. taking on all things Egyptian even down to his clothing. Dio also mentions that Anthony has become bewitched by Cleopatra and describes her as “that accursed woman” in his speech (OU Book1: Reputations –Resources page27 line 20). His speech empowers the fact that Cleopatra was, indeed, and overpowering, manipulative woman, and that Anthony would succumb to her every whim even if this meant the loss of his country, his people and his friends and as an extension, even meant the loss of his very own identity.

Horace, a Roman poet has captured the essence of Cleopatra as noble and brave queen, as society does in its many movie portrayals, but fails to mention Anthony at all, in his poem. Horace wrote his ode around the same time as Anthony and Cleopatra lived and loved, so does this depict a truer image? More so than that of Plutarch or Dio, whose speeches were written long after the events occurred?

What has been written about Cleopatra, by Roman historians, is demeaning. She has been described as “that accursed woman” (OU Book1: Reputations –Resources page27 line 20) by Cassius Dio and as “the mad queen” by Horace (OU: Book 1: Reputations: page 28 line 6). Anthony has been portrayed, by Plutarch, as a weak minded man who cannot resist the charm and beauty of Cleopatra, therefore ensuring that the reader believes he is unstable and bewitched by love.

Plutarch and Cassius Dio seem to be on the same level when describing the relationship between Anthony and Cleopatra with neither of them believing that this was real love, but merely a schoolboy crush on an older woman, at least that is how it reads. They seem to be of the same bias opinion, both being Roman, and writing many years after these events occurred, and neither of them having actual fact about what went on between the two. Whereas Horace’s poem seems to give a more accurate account of how Cleopatra lived and died.

Word Count: 536

Part 2: Cezanne

Compare and contrast Cezanne’s Bathers (Plate 1.3.4) to Correggio’s Leda with the Swan (Plate 1.3.8)

There are many differences between the two paintings that one can plainly see with the naked eye; for example, colour, brush work and composition but each painting is very different from the other.

Cezanne’s Bathers offers no character and his figures are almost one dimensional. They offer the eye no clues as to what the bathers are thinking, discussing, doing etc. The painting offers no delineation of form and has no depth. As I understood; it is the observer of art who should have a keen eye and imagination enough in which to create an illusion, of one’s own, from the art work itself. However, it is very hard to this, with this painting.

Correggio’s Leda with the Swan offers a beautiful, almost magical scene in which the eye can decide for itself what the painting offers. Correggio has also depicted nudes but each image is shown as almost fairy like in the way he has used his brush. They are shown with grace and poise and look almost regal. The painting shows shadows and light, surrounding each tree, leaf and body, giving us the depth that Cezanne’s painting lacks, leaving it impossible to trace where the light source is coming from.

When looking at each painting is seems that Cezanne could possibly have used a palette knife to work with where one pushes the oils around the canvass, creating an impasto effect (the effect in which you use thick layers of paint on a surface creating texture), other than a brush, which creates softness. I feel is clear to see when comparing the two.

The bathers in Correggio’s painting appear to be posing for their artist, not really creating an image of being in motion, as they are seated with their bodies draped around the scene and their facial expressions appear as though they are all in a ‘dreamlike’ state, however the ‘nymphs’ on the right of the painting, playing the instruments, seem to have a fearful look about them, as though they are committing a terrible sin by being there. Cezanne’s bathers, on the other hand, have no facial expressions, that can be seen, but their bodies appear to be in motion. It is clear to see that they are engrossed in something it is possible they could be exercising, with watchers, or the two figures on the right, in the lake, could be looking at something they have found.

The method used by Correggio around the central figure, the lady and the swan, can be seen as separated between the back and foreground, creating the illusion that she is closer to you, by the use of different colour, to incorporate a shaded effect. In Cezanne’s painting this does not happen. There does not appear to be much shading to separate and distinguish each surface of the painting, therefore leaving the observer unable to see where the background starts and the foreground begins.

One has to believe that whatever Cezanne and Correggio had in mind, while creating these paintings, was fundamental for the observer to be able to make up his or her own mind about what the images in the painting are portraying.

Word Count - 526

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