April 24, 2001
Antony and Cleopatra ltr
I pray this letter finds you in good health. I have been meaning to write you for some time now, but finding the time has been difficult. I have known you for almost four months, and I am comfortable in saying that you are one of my favorite classmates.
I wanted to let you know how I felt before the semester concluded because I believe that students like you--intelligent, friendly and outgoing--need to be given positive feedback on the way you handle yourselves in daily interactions with others.
For example, you know that I am one of the oldest students on campus, certainly the oldest in our Shakespeare class. Yet unlike other classmates, you did not let that stop you from engaging me in conversation each time we met, either in class or anywhere on campus. The point is that your friendliness was genuine, whether our conversation was about a class assignment or why you changed the color of your hair.
So, why is this important? Liz, students who are not afraid of making friends with people of all ages and races, or who respect each other’s differences in politics and religion, achieve the most in any society. There has been nothing material to gain from your being unselfish with your time, other than unwittingly gaining my respect.
I feel that it’s ironic that I mention in this letter the traits I most admire about you, while musing about the traits I most dislike in a much older, but still young woman, Cleopatra, of William Shakespeare’s play--Antony and Cleopatra.
In the beginning of the play, Shakespeare introduces Cleopatra as a conniving, sultry vixen, determined to keep Antony, her current lover, from returning to his wife in Rome. Cleopatra uses her extraordinary ability to blind a man with sexuality to keep Antony by her side. Philo, an officer in Antony’s army, describes Cleopatra’s furtiveness in the first lines of the play:
“Nay, but this dotage of our general’s
O’erflows the measure. Those his goodly eyes,
That o’er the files and musters of the war
Have glowed like plated Mars, now bend, now turn
The office and devotion of their view
Upon a tawny front. His captain’s heart,
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst
The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper
And is become the bellows and the fan
To cool a gipsy’s lust.” ( I, i, 1-10 )
What do Antony’s soldiers see that he cannot? Is Cleopatra’s sensuality so great that it keeps Antony mesmerized enough to fog his thinking?
Antony appears to have lost the ability to distinguish between his insatiable appetite for sex, and the meaning of “true” love.
But Act I is not about Antony’s infidelity, it’s about Cleopatra’s surreptitious ways to use a person for selfish gain. For what other reason is she a queen, if not for her being a demimondaine? Philo thinks this is the case as he describes Antony’s descent from being a principal in the Triumvirate to that of a “lapdog”;
“Look where they come.
Take but good note, and you shall see in him
The triple pillar of the world transformed
Into a strumpet’s fool. Behold and see.” ( I, i, 10-13 )
Basically, Philo is saying that Antony is being taken by a prostitute, and that what Antony assumes is love, is nothing more than transparent lust.
Yes, Cleopatra and Antony are in love with each other by the end of the play. But the relationship is doomed from the beginning, because Antony was betraying Fulvia, his wife. Once a person gives value to betrayal, and it enters into his or her morality, it becomes easier to accept in subsequent relationships. At least it did in this play, as Cleopatra betrays Antony in the end, thus leading to their demise.
Liz, Shakespeare’s play may not be the best example of explaining the difference between a person’s selfish or unselfish desires. But since we are studying Antony and Cleopatra, I believe that the play is a good example of what happens to people who use others for their personal gain.
One of the many good things about being an older person is that an older person’s walk through life has already been paved with a tremendous amount of human interaction. It is this interaction that gives one the ability to be a good judge of character and to recognize a person’s sincerity.
I consider your willingness to speak to me, as you would any of your other friends, proof of your sincerity in being a caring person and a very cool dude.(or is that a cool dudette?) I don’t care if you are a punk!