Ancient Rome and Cleopatra

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Cleopatra

Read the following passage carefully at least twice. What does it tell us about Plutarch’s view of the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra?

For Plutarch peoples actions, however trite, were great indications of a person’s moral character (Plutarch, 1914, p. 225). We can, therefore, assume that Plutarch would have placed great importance on the everyday activities of Cleopatra and Antony in reflecting the character of their relationship. Plutarch wrote 150 years after the events of Cleopatra and Antony and was therefore heavily influenced by Roman views of, not only, the couple themselves but also by Roman’s understanding and expectations of relationships, gender and race.

Plutarch highlights the inseparability of Cleopatra and Antony with his long list of the couple’s activities. To the modern reader, this behaviour would likely be understood as “romantic love”, the positive effect of two people having immense feelings for one another. Considering the Roman times in which Plutarch wrote, he would view these actions quite differently. The Roman moralising tradition of the time did not recognise love as a quality. In contrast, such an attachment as Cleopatra and Antony clearly had would be identified as a type of “bewitchment”.(Moohan, 2008, p. 10-11). Remembering this, we can decipher that the couple’s closeness would not be viewed by Plutarch as a positive aspect of their relationship, rather one that is fanatical.

Plutarch suggests a relationship that is controlled by Cleopatra. The use of the word “tutelage” places authority with her and paints her like a prison warden constantly surveilling Antony (Plutarch, in AA100 Assignment Booklet, 2011, p.17). Antony is foolish and passive, whereas Cleopatra is composed and intelligent. He lacks astuteness as his illusional fishing trick is transparent to Cleopatra. In contrast, Cleopatra has great manipulative skills as shown when she cunningly turns the fishing trick around....