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Analyse how language features contributed to our understanding of a theme.
The language features of a text have the ability to enhance the reader’s understanding of a theme. In William Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, he explores the conflict that occurs when emotion overcomes our reason. The language features enable his readers to understand that an excess of emotions can lead to tragic consequences that overcome our reason. Shakespeare demonstrates that allowing our hearts to dominate our heads only leads to calamity.
An overabundance of emotions can cause someone to become so immersed that all other responsibilities are overlooked. Shakespeare portrays this idea through the actions of Antony. Philo’s monologue introduces the character for the first time in the play’s opening scene and uses simile and allusion to convey this theme. In Philo’s eyes, “Mark Antony 'glowed like plated Mars.” We can deduce from this that Antony is likened to the God of War and is seen as everything a good Roman leader should be. This first image, however, is entirely undermined by Philo’s reference to Antony as “the triple pillar of the world converted into a strumpet’s fool” in the opening speech. Philo’s present opinion that Antony has allowed his emotions overpower his intellect belittles and demeans the formerly God-like man who supported the Earth. Philo’s words foreshadows Antony’s behaviour when he arrives soon after this statement in creating this transformation. Shakespeare also used the dramatic technique of a messenger in this scene to deliver Antony news from Rome and to remind him and the audience that he is not free in Egypt. Antony refuses to listen and dismisses the messenger, saying, ‘Let Rome dissolve in Tiber.’ This bombastic metaphor demonstrates Antony’s passionate contempt towards Rome. The way emotions impact Antony is established by Shakespeare in the play’s first scene. This disagreement causes a schism in Antony that will reoccur throughout the novel, which contributes to our understanding of the conflict that occurs when emotions overcome our reason.
Language features can be used to heighten emotions and contribute to our understanding of a theme. Shakespeare reflects the dilemma between responsibility and love when Antony informs Cleopatra of his return to Rome, saying “time commands our services awhile; but my full heart remains in use with you”. The metonym of the “heart” illustrates Antony’s internal conflict between his duties of powerand desire for romance, creating a paradoxical mindset that eventually leads to his downfall. Antony ultimately realises the cost of his indecision when he lose shis battle against Octavius, crying “here I am Antony, yet cannot hold this visible shape”. The hyperbole presents a sense of decay and disillusionment of character as a result of failure, which also foreshadows the Antony’s tragic death. Througha representation ofAntony as a powerful individual incapable of making rational decisions, Shakespeare demonstrates how human emotions may not be congruent with their rationalisation of their position in the world. Thus he illustrates the consequences of an imbalance between responsibility and desire, creating a timeless lesson that showcases the complexity of human emotions, and is valuable in contributing to our understanding of the theme.
When people refuse to act fairly and logically, they experience an excess of emotions. The fraudulent nature of human sis reflected in Shakespeare’s characterisation of the historical figure Cleopatra as a powerful woman,but he dramatises her manipulation of people to achieve her desires. Her affinity for emotional deception is seen when she attempts to convince Antony to remain in Egypt, disregarding his political responsibilities. “If you find him sad, say I am dancing; if in mirth, report that I am suddensick.” The juxtaposition of positive and negative feelings reveals how impressionable humansare when driven by emotions, and thus the extensive influence they have on logical reasoning. Shakespeare further demonstrates the impulsiveness of an individual guided by emotionsthroughattributing Cleopatra to a “thunderbolt”. This metaphorillustrates the spontaneousnature of her character, simultaneously suggesting that she is almost of equal status to the Gods, cementing Cleopatra as a character of powerandjustifying her villainous acts of deception by attributing them to destiny. Cleopatra’s continuous manipulation leads to her eventual self-inflicted death which is foreshadowedin “Mardian, go tell him I have slain myself; say, that the last I spoke was ‘Antony,’ and bring me how he takes my death”. Shakespeare’s integration of a tragic ending serves as a warning to his audience, reminding them ofthe fragility of the human mind and how strong emotions can hinder critical thinking, thus contributing to our understanding of the theme. Shakespeare exposes the deceptive nature of humans through the multilayered characterisation of Cleopatra, creating a timeless lesson for his audience that explores and deconstructs the complexity of human emotions.
Ultimately, Shakespeare’s portrayal of the dichotomy and deceptive nature of humans through his characterisation ofAntony and Cleopatra presents the influence of emotions on one’scriticalreasoning, and how the use of language features contribute to our understanding of this. Antony’s internal conflict between logical reasoning and emotions reveals the indecisiveness of humans when tempted by desires, and Shakespeare’s characterisation of Cleopatra as a duplicitousfigure illustrates the extent to which emotions influence an individual’s capability to logically reason. Shakespeare’s use of dramatic techniques ultimately creates a timeless lesson that teaches his audience about the complexity of human emotions, demonstrating that language features can contribute to our understanding of a theme.