To what extent are the characters controlled

To what extent are the characters controlled by their ain free will instead than by Fate OR Providence in two of the dramas studied? ( Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra )

Free will or destine? What is it that controls our lives? This is a argument that has raged throughout history and has of course spilled onto the pages of literature. The thought of destiny originates from Greek and Roman mythology in which three goddesses ( the Fates ) named Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos were believed to command the birth and lives of worlds. As clip has passed, destiny has become a more general term for the development of events outside of a person’s control. Where events appear to be predetermined, we believe destiny has played its portion. This essay aims to detect the portion that destiny dramas in Shakespeare’s dramas,Romeo and JulietandAntony and Cleopatra. How far are the characters shown to move on their ain free will and how apparent is the power of destiny in these two dramas?

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Shakespeare drew from a figure of different beginnings when composing his dramas, which meant that much of their content would hold been predetermined right from the beginning. In the instance ofRomeo and Juliet, the narratives of the supporters had already been written by Arthur Brooke in theTragic History of Romeus and Julietin 1562. Brooke’s version was besides based on the work of another writer, and even that wasn’t the original. So, although Shakespeare compresses the narrative and makes it his ain, the result is already set in rock. However, even without the anterior cognition of the play’s beginning stuffs, the audience shortly becomes cognizant of the nature of its content through the prologue. This informs the audience precisely what ‘the-hours’ traffic of the phase will affect and that they will be witness to ‘the fearful transition of [ their ] death-marked love’ [ 1 ] . The really fact that the drama is titled a calamity besides reveals that the narrative of Romeo and Juliet will be an doomed 1.

Antony and Cleopatrabesides draws much of its content from another beginning, this clip a historical 1. The drama follows on from another historical drama,Julius Caesarand Shakespeare sticks to a great extent to the secret plan outlined in Plutarch’sLifes of the Baronial Grecians and Romans. As withRomeo and Juliet, the secret plan is already in being, doing it highly likely that the audience will be cognizant what the result will be. However, the nature of theater – and of calamity – dictates that it is frequently how we reach that result that is more of import. We become drawn into the lives of the characters and accept their journeys as if we were witnessing the inside informations for the first clip. Therefore, we are able to analyze the inside informations behind these well-documented narratives and make up one’s mind for ourselves what led to their decisions. Can these tragic heroes be seen to expose any marks of free will, or are they finally destined to be victims of destiny?

The power of love is closely linked to destine in both dramas. The first clip we see Romeo for illustration, he is profoundly in love and overcome by emotion, ‘Under love’s heavy load do I sink’ [ 2 ] . He is unable to concentrate on anything else but his love for Rosalind and alludes to Cupid, the God of love in Roman mythology. This reference of Cupid suggests that in this drama love will be something that is beyond the control of mere persons. The usage of words such as ‘bewitched’ besides suggest this. Romeo despairs that he is unable to act upon Rosalind’s feelings towards him in the manner that he wants, ‘She’ll non be hit/ With Cupid’s arrow’ [ 3 ] . It is the power of love that necessarily seals the destiny of Romeo and Juliet. Both are ruled by their bosom and passion takes over free will. When Romeo meets Juliet for the first clip, the consequence she has on his actions and determinations is clear, ‘Can I go frontward when my bosom is here? ’ [ 4 ] And in bend Juliet would make anything to be with Romeo to the extent that she would instead decease than marry Paris and be without Romeo. Mercutio represents free will in the drama, he mocks the thought of love affair and fate, and believes you shouldn’t be a slave to love. He advises Romeo, ‘‘If love be unsmooth with you, be rough with love’ [ 5 ] . The decease of Mercutio can hence be seen as boding the victory of doomed love over free will.

The supporters of Antony and Cleopatra are besides to a great extent influenced by the emotions of love and passion. While the drama does hold a historical context and narrates the battle of Antony and Octavius Caesar over political domination, it is mostly concerned with the struggle that Antony faces between passion and ground. He is often torn between his sense of responsibility to the Roman Empire and his desire to delight and be pleased by his Egyptian married woman, Cleopatra. Rather than the all-consuming force shown inRomeo and Juliet, the power of love inAntony and Cleopatrais illustrated by the influence of other characters. Cleopatra has an intense influence over Antony’s political determinations and accordingly he is frequently forced to bewray his honorable position and his duty towards his people, ‘Let Rome in Tiber thaw and the broad arch / Of the ranged imperium fall’ [ 6 ] .

The first scene of the drama opens with the characters of Demetrius and Philo discoursing the damaging consequence that Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra is holding on the Roman Empire. They refer to Antony as ‘a strumpet’s fool’ [ 7 ] and note the alteration that has taken topographic point within the former hero. Besides, Enobarbus, Antony’s loyal follower, notices these features in Antony’s Egyptian married woman and provinces that, ‘her beauty is so uncomparable, her appeals so strong’ that the ‘vilest things / Become themselves in her, that the holy priests / Bless her when she is riggish’ [ 8 ] . It is merely toward the terminal that Antony realises merely how far his individuality has become removed from the heroic Antony that he used to be. He besides becomes cognizant of how closely this alteration is linked to the influence of Cleopatra. When he says that she ‘has robbed me of my sword’ [ 9 ] there is a suggestion that Cleopatra has robbed Antony of both his manhood and his heroic art. The ruin of Antony is systematically linked to his love for Cleopatra, ‘I made these wars for Egypt, and the Queen – / Whose bosom I thought I had, for she had mine.’ [ 10 ]

If Antony forfeits his free will as a consequence of his love for Cleopatra, possibly she can be seen as a character that does show free will within the drama. Cleopatra does look to be a adult female obsessed with the chase of power ( she was married to Julius Caesar before Marc Antony ) and is highly acute to accomplish success through Antony. However, she is besides vulnerable to the seductions of love and passion and is frequently preoccupied with obtaining reassurances from Antony that he genuinely loves her, ‘If it be love so, state me how much’ . [ 11 ] But how far this behavior is mere use of her lover is problematic. Her motivations are frequently ill-defined, for illustration, we don’t cognize why she flees Actium or why she chooses to negociate with Caesar at the terminal of the drama.

It is besides Cleopatra’s actions that lead to Antony’s decease, proposing that possibly her influence has a greater consequence on his life than destiny. Interestingly though Cleopatra is one of the characters that speaks the most about luck. She frequently negotiations of it as if it has control of others but non her, as in the instance of Caesar, ‘he’s but Fortune’s knave. [ 12 ] She does non see herself as being at the clemency of luck in the same manner. When it comes to the decease of Antony she even vocalises her belief that she can vie with luck, ‘No, allow me talk, and allow me inveigh so high / That the false adulteress Fortune break her wheel, / Provoked by my offence’ . [ 13 ] Although at first glimpse she appears to be upset at the decease of Antony, she is possibly more concerned with what will go on to her in the wake. In taking to perpetrate suicide Cleopatra is taking how she wants to be remembered. She wants to be remembered on her ain footings instead than be paraded through the streets ‘I’ th’ position of a whore’ [ 14 ] by order of Caesar. This act of ‘taking’ her ain life is in itself a pick and an act of free will. She is able to keep her place of power through decease.

Stephen Greenblatt suggests that Shakespeare’s calamities are ‘unusually dependent on happenstance, bad luck, and accident’ . [ 15 ] In the instance of Antony and Cleopatra, these occurrences frequently stem from the actions of Cleopatra. However, the narrative of Romeo and Juliet unfolds a sequence of severely timed events before us. Acts I and II clearly demonstrate the action assemblage impulse, with elusive intimations at possible dangers – for illustration the fact that Romeo could easy be caught by the Capulets when he visits Juliet after the cloaked ball, ‘If they do see thee, they will slay thee’ . [ 16 ] However, at this point in the drama we are mostly optimistic and it is merely in Act III that events begin to gyrate out of control. Romeo recognises the significance that Tybalt’s decease will hold on his relationship with Juliet, and that he has forfeited control of his state of affairs, ‘Oh, I am fortune’s fool’ . [ 17 ] As is normally the instance with Shakespeare’s dramas, the action extremums in the 3rd Act and from this point on it is clear that events will cabal to convey an terminal to Romeo and Juliet’s love.

On the downward slide from Act III each event plays its ain portion in the calamity, this adds to the dramatic consequence of the drama as we are cognizant that if one of these events hadn’t taken topographic point the lives of Romeo and Juliet would hold lived. If Balthasar had non taken the message of Juliet’s decease to Romeo for illustration, if the Friar’s courier had reached Romeo in clip, or if Romeo had arrived at the grave a small later…We at the same time wish that things could turn out otherwise, whilst cognizing that things will stop tragically. Romeo has this same sense of predicting before he receives intelligence from Balthasar, ‘I woolgather my lady came and found me dead’ . [ 18 ] Another factor that has an consequence on the result of the drama is the Prince and his authorization over the community. It is the Prince who banishes Romeo when he learns that he is responsible for the decease of Tybalt, and ironically it is the Prince who surmises what is to be learnt from the fiasco. He acts as the voice of ground and brings to illume the destructive effects of the Capulet and Montague struggle, ‘That heaven discoveries means to kill your joys with love.’ [ 19 ] Fate has played its portion, but finally it is the hate between the two households that has brought about the decease of Romeo and Juliet. The storyteller observes in Romeo and Juliet in Act II that ‘passion lends them power’ , [ 20 ] nevertheless, it appears that the power does non lie in its ability to salvage them, but in learning the environing community a lesson.

Fictional characters in both dramas mostly don’t exhibit features of free will, with the exclusion of Cleopatra. Outside influences have a immense consequence on what happens to the characters, with societal conventions and the behavior of other playing a important portion in the action. Fate frequently works manus in manus with destiny, whereby characters lose their free will as a consequence of falling in love. Above all, the label of calamity dictates that whatever these characters do their destinies are already sealed from the really get downing. What is of import is how this decision is reached and what lessons can be learnt as a consequence.


The Norton Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt ( W.W. Norton & A ; Company Inc, 1997 )


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