Themes, Symbolism and Devices in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus
Shakespeare used Marc Antony and Coriolanus as the main and relative objects of comparativeness in his two plays “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Coriolanus”. Through them, he presented different aspects of life, death, love, misfortune, tragedy, honor etc. Some critics say that these two characters are the mainstay of Shakespeare’s tragedies because they are not only similar to each other in their heroic qualities but also in their tragic flaws. In this essay we will discuss the major themes, symbols and devices used in these two plays and how they relate to each other. We will also discuss the setting and the main characters of the plays.
2. Themes, Symbolism and Devices
2.1. Love and death
The theme of love and death is one of the most important themes in Shakespeare’s plays. It is also one of the most common themes in his tragedies. In “Antony and Cleopatra”, the theme of love and death is explored through the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra. Antony is a Roman general who is married to Octavia, sister of Octavius Caesar. However, he falls in love with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. This love affair leads to his downfall and eventually to his death. In “Coriolanus”, the theme of love and death is explored through the relationship between Coriolanus and Volumnia. Coriolanus is a Roman general who is exiled from Rome after he goes against the wishes of the people. He then goes to join forces with Aufidius, leader of the Volscians. However, he is eventually killed by Aufidius. The theme of love and death is also explored through the relationship between Aufidius and Coriolanus. Aufidius loves Coriolanus but he also hates him because he is a Roman.
2. 2. Triumvirate
The triumvirate is another important theme in Shakespeare’s plays. It is a political arrangement in which three people share power over a state or country. In “Antony and Cleopatra”, the triumvirate refers to the ruling government of Rome which consists of Octavius Caesar, Marcus Lepidus and Marc Antony. In “Coriolanus”, the triumvirate refers to the ruling government of Rome which consists of Menenius Agrippa, Cominiusand Titus Lartius. Both these governments are eventually overthrown by their respective opponents (Octavian in “Antony and Cleopatra” and Coriolanus in “Coriolanus”).
2. 3 Misfortune
Misfortune is another important theme in Shakespeare’s plays. It is often associated with tragedy or with characters who are flawed in some way. In “Antony and Cleopatra”, misfortune befalls Antony when he loses his battle against Octavian at Actium. This leads to his suicide along with that of Cleopatra’s suicide. In “Coriolanus”, misfortune befalls Coriolanus when he goes against the wishes of the people of Rome and is subsequently exiled from Rome. This leads to his joining forces with the Volscians and eventually to his death.