In act 2 scene 1, we witness a crucial part of the play. The king Alonso and his courtyards have mysteriously fallen asleep. Strangely, only Sebastian, the king’s brother and the treacherous Antonio are left awake. This is where Antonio begins his persuasion of Sebastian.
Antonio begins with a very subtle attempt to persuade Sebastian,
“Worthy Sebastian? O, what might? No more.”(Line 197)
Using the word “Worthy” in his sentence is the first step in Antonio’s persuasion of Sebastian. This word is used to make Sebastian feel comfortable and also special. This may have also been said as a way of preparing Sebastian for what he will say next. In addition it also intrigues the audience, as they will want to also find out what Antonio means.
The next attempt of persuasion is not as subtle. This is when Antonio states,
“My strong imagination sees a crown
Dropping upon thy head.”(Line 200)
In this statement Antonio is almost saying he wants Sebastian to be king. What this line suggests, is that Antonio is supportive of Sebastian. When he says “strong imagination”, it is like he is foretelling the future. Using these words also allow Sebastian to paint his own picture in his head. This will make him feel as if he is in control, thus he can be more comfortable with the situation.
Again Antonio has moved to a less subtle form of persuasion,
“Though let’st thy fortune sleep – die rather;”(line 208)
Here, Antonio is using personification. By saying his fortunes sleep he is giving them human qualities. This is perhaps used to make Sebastian feel emotionally attached to the fortune that could be his. Antonio also hints at the importance of Sebastian’s actions, “Die rather;” What this implies is that Antonio wants Sebastian to rather die than loose his opportunity.
Sebastian begins to understand Antonio, and agrees to follow him,
“Well I am standing water.”(Line 215) Sebastian uses standing water as a metaphor for himself. He is saying that like standing water he has no direction, and therefore needs Antonio to show him the right way to go. Antonio replies like this,
“I’ll teach you how to flow”(line 216). From this we can gather that Antonio wants to establish a teacher student relationship with Sebastian. This way Antonio can get a lot more control over Sebastian. This perhaps would have been a tense moment for the audience as it is where they can first fully understand Antonio’s plot.
Antonio continues his persuasion of Sebastian by mentally eliminating the obstacles that would stop Sebastian from being king. He tries to ensure with Sebastian that Ferdinand is dead by saying, “Will you grant with me
That Ferdinand is drowned?” by saying this Antonio is trying to eliminate any of Sebastian’s hope of Ferdinand being alive. Next, Antonio starts eliminating Claribel as a possible threat to Sebastian’s chances. “She that dwells
Ten leagues beyond man’s life;”(Line 238).
What we can understand from this is that Antonio wants Claribel to seem unimportant. He does this by addressing her as “She”. This depersonalises her, that way Sebastian will have less feeling towards her. Antonio again tries to distance Sebastian and Claribel, this time by emphasising the physical gap between them.
“She that dwells”. Antonio is trying to emphasise the fact that Claribel is so far away she would have no control over what happens. In this part Antonio also hyperbole to emphasise his point.
“Ten leagues beyond man’s life;” Antonio is using a measurement to describe to Sebastian how far Claribel is. By saying she is beyond mans life; Antonio is saying there is now way she can do anything about it even if she knew. Furthermore, because Antonio was talking badly of woman, this would have brought him across as a worse person.
Antonio uses hyperbole again in line 241. Antonio states, “till new-born chins
Be rough and razorable;” Here, Antonio is still talking about Claribel and is still emphasising the distance between them. From this statement, what Antonio is trying to say is that newborn children would have become bearded adults by the time Claribel finds out about their treachery. For the audience these lines may have been what determined their final opinion of Antonio, as it is at this point where we can be sure of Antonio’s intentions.
Sebastian begins to fully understand Antonio’s plot. Antonio starts using more direct approaches at persuading Sebastian. We see this on line 253 where Antonio says,
“Say this were death
That now hath seize them, why, they were no worse than now they are.”
In this quote, Antonio is talking about Alonso and the courtyards. Antonio is insinuating that Alonso and the courtyards are as good as dead, and it would just feel as if they sleeping. Antonio probably says this to ease Sebastian into killing Alonso. Telling him that they would be same dead as asleep is a way of letting Sebastian down gently. Additionally Antonio tries to persuade Sebastian talking of his success.
“My brothers servants
Were then my fellows, now they are my men.”(Line 266)
What Antonio is trying to tell Sebastian, is that he has prospered from his duplicity.
He tells him that the people that were once his equals are now his inferiors.
Telling Sebastian something like this would encourage Sebastian to desire Alonso’s crown more.
Further along the scene Antonio attempts to remove Sebastian’s respect for Alonso by insulting him. When talking about Alonso, Antonio states,
“No better than the earth he lies upon,”(Line 274).
This statement is designed to eradicate Sebastian’s respect and sympathy for Alonso.
Antonio compares Alonso to dirt, and ranks them the same. Antonio probably does this to tell Sebastian that Alonso is unimportant and has no authority over them where they are. This part might have had quite a dramatic affect on the audience. By this point the audience might also feel sympathy for Alonso and the courtyards that are facing death without knowing.
Over the course of the scene Alonso’s persuasion sinks through to Sebastian and they both agree to kill Alonso and Gonzalo. Antonio uses a wide variety of techniques to persuade Sebastian. Without them it would not have been possible to turn Sebastian against his brother. All of Antonio’s words have a dramatic impact on Sebastian and the audience, allowing us to get a better understanding of their characters just through their words and reactions.