Word Count: 795In Shakespeares tragedy/history/Roman play Antony andCleopatra, we are told the story of two passionate andpower-hungry lovers. In the first two Acts of the play weare introduced to some of the problems and dilemmas facingthe couple (such as the fact that they are entwined in anadulterous relationship, and that both of them are forced toshow their devotion to Caesar).
Along with being introducedto Antony and Cleopatras strange love affair, we areintroduced to some interesting secondary characters. One of these characters is Enobarbus. Enobarbus is ahigh-ranking soldier in Antonys army who it seems is veryclose to his commander. We know this by the way Enobarbusis permitted to speak freely (at least in private) withAntony, and often is used as a person to whom Antonyconfides in. We see Antony confiding in Enobarbus in Act I,Scene ii, as Antony explains how Cleopatra is cunning pastmans thought (I.Order now
ii. 146). In reply to this Enobarbusspeaks very freely of his view of Cleopatra, even if what hesays is very positive:. .
. her passions are made ofnothing but the finest part of pure love. We cannotcall her winds and waters sighs and tears; they are greater storms and tempests than almanacs can report. This cannot be cunning in her; if it be she makes a shower of rain as well as Jove.
(I, ii, 147-152)After Antony reveals that he has just heard news of hiswifes death, we are once again offered an example ofEnobarbus freedom to speak his mind, in that he tellsAntony to give the gods a thankful sacrifice (I. ii. 162),essentially saying that Fulvias death is a good thing. Obviously, someone would never say something like this unless they were in very close company.
While acting as a friend and promoter of Antony,Enobarbus lets the audience in on some of the myth andlegend surrounding Cleopatra. Probably his biggest role inthe play is to exaggerate Anthony and Cleopatrasrelationship. Which he does so well in the followingstatements:When she first met Mark Antony, she pursed up his heart, upon the river of Cydnus. (II. ii. 188-189)The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;Purple the sails, and so perfumed thatThe winds were lovesick with them; the oars weresilver,(II.
ii. 193-197)And, for his ordinary, pays his heartFor what his eyes eat only. (II. ii. 227-228)Age cannot wither her, nor custom staleHer infinite variety.
. . . (II.
ii. 237-238)In these passages, Enobarbus turns Antonys and Cleopatrasmeeting into a fairy tale and leads the audience intobelieving the two are inseparable. His speeches in Act IIare absolutely vital to the play in that this is whatShakespeare wants the audience to view Antony and Cleopatra. Also, in these passages, Cleopatra is described asirresistible and beautiful beyond belief — another viewthat is necessary for us to believe in order to buy the factthat a man with so much to lose would be willing to risk itall in order to win her love. Quite possibly, these passages may hint that Enobarbusis himself in love with Cleopatra. After all, it would behard to come up with such flowery language if a person werenot inspired.
Enobarbus may be lamenting his own passionsvicariously through the eyes of Antony. This would beconvenient in questioning Enobarbus loyalty, which becomesvery important later on in the play (considering he killshimself over grief from fearing he betrayed his leader). The loyalty of Enobarbus is indeed questionable. Eventhough we never hear him utter a single disparaging remarkagainst Antony, he does admit to Menas that he will praiseany man that will praise me (II. iii. 88), suggesting thathis honor and loyalty may just be simple brown-nosing.
Shakespeare probably fashioned Enobarbus as a means ofrelaying information to the audience that would otherwise bedifficult or awkward to bring forth from other characters(such as Cleopatras beauty and the story of her betrayal ofCaesar), but he also uses him as way to inject some levityand humor in the play, showing the characters eagerness tohave a good time. Evidence of this comes in Enobarbusaffinity for drunkenness. In both Act I and Act IIEnobarbus purports the joys of drink:Bring in the banquet quickly: wine enough Cleopatras health to drink. (I. ii.
13-24)Mine, and most of our fortunes,tonight, shall be — drunk to bed. (I. ii. 47-48)He even caps off Act II with a song for Bacchus and arequest for drunken celebration. In short, Enobarbus is used as any good secondarycharacter should be; he relays information betweencharacters, exposes other characters and their traits, givesbackground information, and lets the audience in on hissurroundings and the general moods and beliefs of the timeshe lived in. He is not just used as a database however,through his speeches and his actions we find a fullydeveloped person, someone with thoughts, motives, andfeelings all his own — a character who cant be summed upin just a few sentences.