Theme of Deception

Theme of Deception

Deception is a recurring theme throughout the play. Even within the opening scene, Act 1 Scene 1, the theme of deception is initiated. Philo, a minor of Shakespeare’s characters backstabs the superior Cleopatra referring to her as a ‘gypsy’ (line 9) and then continues to ‘badmouth’ Antony, calling him a ‘strumpet’s fool’ (line 13). This introduction of deception foreshadows the other key acts of deception later on in the play.

‘I’ll yet follow/ … Antony, though my reason/ sits in the wind against me’ (Act 3 Scene 10 Line 36 -8) foreshadows Enobarbus deceiving Antony. Enobarbus attempts to be loyal to Antony, ‘I’ll yet follow… Antony’ however, Enobarbus does recognise that this is unwise due to Antony being ‘wounded’ (line 37). Therefore, Enobarbus doubts Antony’s ‘wounded chance’ (Line 37) helping the audience sense Enobarbus’ feeling of doubt and unease in aligning with Antony. ‘The wind against me’ creates this feeling of unease as Enobarbus feels unsettled in facing a tough situation.

This forewarning language prepares the audience for Enobarbus hesitating in siding with Antony, thus it is not surprising when Enobarbus crosses sides away from Antony over to the enemy, ‘he is with Caesar’ (Act 4 Scene 5 Line 9). Antony’s question ‘Is he gone? (Act 4 Scene 5 Line 12) answered with the soldier’s direct, ‘most certain’ (Line 11), announces to the audience that Enobarbus made a quick and direct departure from Antony, as though to not cause a stir or fuss. This suggests that Enobarbus feels the weight of a ‘guilty conscience’ for his deception of Antony. This is supported by Enobarbus’ emotive language in recognising his act of deceit towards Antony, ‘the poisonous damp of night’ (Act 4 Scene 9 Line 15). Enobarbus clearly laments and dreads having abandoned Antony, as though the guilt almost lingers like a poisonous damp around him, even at night while he sleeps, choking his blameworthy self.

Enobarbus’ realisation of his deceitful nature in...

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