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Antony And Cleopatra Wuthering Heights And Atonement English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3525 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Duty is a social force that binds a person to a course of action through a legal or moral obligation. Duty can be represented in a variety of ways throughout literature: patriotic duty, duty to your family, partner and yourself. All three authors present this theme to have destructive qualities for the relationships of the characters. Whilst Shakespeare argues that Antony’s lacking sense of duty lead to his demise, Bronte and McEwen show that the characters strong sense of duty leads to their ultimate separation. In Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ the main demonstration of destructive duty is shown in the character of Antony who is caught in a conflict between his duty to Rome as a soldier and his love and passion for Cleopatra. Whereas Cathy in ‘Wuthering Heights’ is caught between her desire for social class and her desire for Heath cliff. On the other hand McEwen’s ‘Atonement’ shows how Robbie’s patriotic duty separates him from his love Cecelia causing the destruction of Cecelia as a person.

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In his opening lines to Demetrius, Philo complains that ‘The triple pillar of the world’ has ‘transformed into a strumpet’s fool’ when Antony abandons Rome. This foreshadows future events when Antony leaves Rome to be with Cleopatra and engages in war with Rome choosing to fight by sea rather than land. Philo’s criticism of Antony’s “dotage,” introduces a tension between reason and emotion that runs throughout the play. The theme of duty in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ puts a strain on their relationship as Antony has a duty to Rome and Caesar. Sophie Williams argues ‘She has a lack of confidence in Antony’s love for her’ and that ‘She experiences irrational jealousy and reveals great insecurity’ because even though some critics may view her jealousy as being the actions of ‘a controlling and manipulative woman’ and ‘find it difficult to interpret aspects of her behaviour as those of a woman in love’. Sophie Williams argues that ‘she experiences the volatile and powerful emotions more characteristic of a young woman in love for the first time’ suggesting Cleopatra to be innocent, a contradiction of the common view taken by many audiences.

This causes conflict between Antony and Cleopatra heightens as she becomes increasingly jealous along with their distance apart shown through her conversation with Charmain when she says ‘That I might sleep out this great gap of time My Antony is away’ this suggests to the audience that she cannot bare to be apart from him. However this could also be perceived by other audiences as Cleopatra’s desperation in having a lack of control over Antony now that she is parted from him. Overall, this shows how although it appears as if Antony has chosen his duty to Rome above Cleopatra as ‘on the sudden a roman thought hath struck him’ they are still deeply in love. Shakespeare uses this to demonstrate the destructive qualities of duty as Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship leads to there ultimate destruction through their deaths.

Similarly to ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, McEwen uses the physical distance between Cecelia and Robbie created by the war to show the destructive qualities of duty. Whereas Jonathon cape argues ‘The twists and turns of Ian McEwan’s fiction are built on a knack for sustained illusion’. Tom Shone from the New York Times criticises that the ‘young lovers follow the suit — that English novelists stopped writing more than 30 years ago’. McEwen shows this through the introduction of Bryony’s cunning plot to get Robbie arrested, although he presents Cecilia and Robbie’s love affair as ongoing, ‘ill wait for you was eternal. It was the reason he had survived. It was the ordinary way of saying she would refuse all other men. Only you. Come back’. This suggests to the audience the strength of Cecilia’s love for Robbie is unconditional as ‘no amount of bad art’ or ‘bad faith can ever quite cheapen’ it. This could be perceived by some audiences’ as showing how duty is not a destructive force on characters relationships as the destruction was caused by bryony’s lie. However similarly to Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ McEwen represents Cecelia’s and Robbie’s love affair as ongoing through messages representing their feelings in letters which could be viewed by some audiences as a modern take on the messengers in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. This shows how duty can lead to the destruction of characters as the introduction of bryony’s lie causes them to be separated from each other and bryony’s lie ultimately leads to Robbie’s death in the war. Meaning that if it was not for her lie the sequence of events prior to his death may not have happened and his duty to war would not have stopped their relationship from developing.

Similarly to ‘Antony in Antony and Cleopatra’, in ‘Wuthering Heights’ duty is also a theme that leads to the destruction of characters. Bronte introduces this through the character of Cathy as she experiences a conflict of emotions just like Antony, as Cathy marries Linton for his social status rather than love but her loyalty and her devoted passion is directed almost entirely towards Heathcliff. This is shown through desperation in trying to keep Heathcliff in her life as she announces ‘well, if I cannot keep Heathcliff for my friend-if Edgar will be mean and jealous, ill try to break their hearts by breaking my own. That will be a prompt way of finishing all, when I am pushed to extremity’ this suggests to the audience the level of desperation she experiences in trying to keep Heathcliff in her life causes her to act irrationally. On the other hand some audiences many view her as trying to punish both men because she cannot obtain what she desires most. It can be argued that ‘Instead of being compassionate and heroic, Heathcliff and Catherine are selfish and petty’. This shows the destructive nature of duty as Cathy’s duty as her duty to Linton as his wife ensures that she cannot peruse a life with Heathcliff.

Furthermore, when Antony marries Octavia to prove to Caesar that he is still loyal to Rome he is once again showing that at this point in the play his sense of duty out weighs his love and devotion towards Cleopatra. Shakespeare shows Antony’s duty to Rome through their final conversation before he leaves her, “quarrel no more, but be prepared to know the purpose I bare” suggesting that Antony knows his duty presenting him as the strong leader and authoritive figure as he is known to be in leaving Cleopatra because his duty to Rome was much greater. It is also evident that his marriage to Octavia was a decision influenced heavily by duty rather than love which Shakespeare shows in the way they communicate with each other using through the use of Octavia in using formal language to refer to Antony as “my lord” and “sir”. Which Contrasts highly to the ways in which Antony and Cleopatra communicate in verse and use powerful and emotive language in referring to each other as Antony describes how ‘age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety’ and when Cleopatra says ‘o happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony!’. This suggests that they do not have the level of comfort and familiarity that Shakespeare presents Antony and Cleopatra to have. Implying that even though Antony is physically parted by from Cleopatra because of his duty to Rome, it has not diminished their love. It also shows how duty compels people to do things which they would not choose to if they had a choice as Antony would not have gone to Rome and married Octavia. This shows the destruction duty has on characters because Antony’s betrayal of Caesar ultimately leads to his destruction as it sparks a war between Rome and Antony where he makes the fatal mistake to fight by sea as he is heavy influenced by Cleopatra famous for her fleet of ships as even the winds are ‘love-sick’ with her sails.

However, as the play progresses Antony’s loyalty and duty becomes greater for Cleopatra as he leaves Rome and Octavia behind to join Cleopatra in Egypt as Caesar describes him as ‘being an obstruct between his lust and him’ this suggests that Antony has let his feelings towards Cleopatra effect his judgment and leads him to disregarding his duty as a soldier to Rome. Shakespeare presents this as an unusual act for Antony to do due to Caesars outrage as he believes ‘he hath given his empire up to a whore’ this use of strong language shows Caesars level of disgust in Antony’s actions showing how this was unusual to roman culture. Shakespeare shows Antony’s shift in priorities through his disregard for Rome and the reactions of Caesar. This shows how duty is destructive as this event is a representation of a turning point in the play where Antony looses the respect of his soldiers, resulting in the abdication of Enobarbus.

Similarly to ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ Cathay’s marriage to Linton reflects the feeling of obligation rather than love. It has been suggested that ‘Instead of being blissfully in love, Catherine marries someone else and breaks Heathcliff’s heart. Too proud to tell each other their true feelings, they fight, storm and rage against each other, destroying themselves in the process.’ Bronte displays this through the imagery of nature where she describes her “love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods’ and that “Time will change it” as she was “well aware, as winter changes the trees – my love for Heath cliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath – a source of little visible delight, but necessary”. Suggesting that her love for Heathcliff is the foundation of her relationship with Linton. Bronte uses this to suggest the destructive qualities of duty as Cathy’s duty to Linton as his wife means that she is separated by an oath from her true love, Heathcliff. Also the fact it would be heavily frowned upon for a woman of her social status to converse with Heathcliff.

The minor characters such as the messengers in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ also have an important duty as they are the main form of communication between the characters especially from Rome to Egypt and are used by Shakespeare to create suspense and introduce changes to the plot. The messengers are often used to introduce bad news as ‘the nature of bad news infects the teller’ to Cleopatra and Antony such as when Antony’s wife died and when Cleopatra learns of Antony’s marriage to Octavia. The messengers often find themselves in the middle of a conflict as communicating this bad news results in them getting caught in the crossfire, leading them to a defensive outlook and constantly having to remind the emotional characters that ‘I have done my duty’. This shows how Shakespeare uses the messengers to show how the major characters conflict between duty and passion leads them to displaying outrageous act of emotions.

Shakespeare’s presentation of duty shows a continuous conflict with love and passion which he uses essentially to create suspense and intrigue in the audiences’ mind as to the ongoing battle between the head and the heart which is used by many literary authors to this day. It can be argued that Antony’s duty to Rome is a perfect demonstration of a person’s moral obligation in conjunction with their wants and desires. Shakespeare shows in the play Antony and Cleopatra that Antony’s heart; his love for Cleopatra clouded his judgment when it came to making decisions on how best to defeat Caesar. This was shown by Shakespeare through the use of minor characters such as Antony’s fleet advising him that it would be more advantageous for Antony to fight by land. However, Antony allowed himself to be persuaded by his passion for Cleopatra which Shakespeare used to present the destructive nature of duty though his defeat in battle. Shakespeare shows Antony’s increasing lack of duty towards Rome through the famous quote ‘let Rome in tyber melt, and the wide arch of the ranged empire fall’ suggesting that Antony’s priority’s have shifted from Rome to Egypt. However this dwindles in the next act when he worries about ‘loosing himself in dotage’.

McEwen uses the repetition of physical windows to understand how confusion came to be a key theme within the novel as McEwen’s uses multi-narrative witch allows the reader to grasp the full extent of the story. McEwen uses this narration to show how duty can be destructive to characters because it allows the audience to see how bryony’s mistake effects different characters from the individual’s point of view in the novel through her lie she causes the newly in love Cecelia and Robbie to be separated. It also leads to the destruction of bryony herself as she is constantly trying to atone for her mistakes throughout her life and can never get the forgiveness she wanted from Robbie and Cecelia.

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Similarly to ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ repetition is another tactic Bronte employs in organizing ‘Wuthering Heights’. However unlike ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, in ‘Wuthering Heights’, it seems that nothing ends in the world of this novel. Bronte creates the illusion of time running in cycles which she achieves through repetitive story lines, and the events of the past reoccurring in the present. Bronte introduces this through the use of the younger characters in the ways that the names of the characters are recycled organizing the novel into recurring parallels allowing the reader to make connections between the different generations.

On the other hand, Shakespeare uses symbolism in referring to Antony as a cloud that changes shape as it tumbles across the sky, which reflects how Antony changes through the different acts of the play. Shakespeare shows Antony’s changes through the changing shape of the clouds as ‘sometimes we see a cloud as dragonish’ showing how he turns from “a bear or lion, to a ‘towered citadel, a pendent rock,” suggesting that Antony can ‘mock our eyes with air’ as Antony seems to change from the reputable conqueror into a debased victim. As he says to Eros, his uncharacteristic defeat, both on the battlefield and in matters of love, makes it difficult for him to “hold this visible shape”. In addition Antony’s two attempts at battle with Caesar at sea, result in his navy being betrayed by the queen’s retreat which shows how Antony does not learn from his mistakes. It could be argued that ‘if Cleopatra really loved Antony, she would not have accompanied him in the first place’ or ‘she would have stood by him and realized the concequences of turning back’. This demonstrates to the reader the destructive qualities of duty as although Antony has given up so much for Cleopatra; she still puts Egypt first when she realizes that Antony cannot win. this ultimately leads to the deaths of the two characters because in Antony’s outrage he exclaims ‘this foul Egyptian hath betrayed me’ calling her a ‘triple-turned whore!’ which leads to her ordering Charmain to ‘go tell him I have slain myself’ causing him to order Eros to ‘draw’ his sword and kill him ultimately resulting in his own destruction.

In addition, Shakespeare uses social status to demonstrate how powerful the conflict between duty and passion can be as the characters in Antony and Cleopatra are of a high status in society which Shakespeare displays through Enobarbus’ extravagant descriptions of ‘the barge she sat in’ as being ‘like a burnished throne’ that ‘burned on the water’ with ‘purple’ sales that were ‘so perfumed that the winds were love-sick with them’ and yet they still allow themselves to be diminished though their lack of awareness when passion outweighs reason. The character of Antony appears, at first glance to be a powerful man as a leading member of the triumvirate as he was the ‘triple pillar of the word’. Shakespeare demonstrates the destructive quality of passion in contrast with duty as Antony was once a feared and respected solder with an air of authority which was diminished through his love affair with Cleopatra as a result of a combination of clouded decisions.

In contrast to ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ where there separation is a culmination of their mutual social status in both ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Atonement’ it is the male characters lack of social status that results in the separation from the people they love. Bronte introduces this in Wuthering heights through Cathy’s considerable advance in social status over Heathcliff as she says that ‘it would be degrading to me to marry Heathcliff now’ suggesting to the audience that at this time a persons social status was considerably more important than a persons happiness this was particularly prevalent in people of a higher social status as marrying as Cathy’s marriage to Heathcliff would simply never happen. Bronte uses this to show the destructive nature of duty as social status is used as a barrier.

Similarly to Antony and Cleopatra Bronte uses the locations of thrush cross grange to represent Linton and Wuthering heights to represent heath cliff .The parallels of two warring houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrush cross Grange, represent opposing rfhth, worlds and values which further suggests to the audience the difficulty of Cathy’s choice due to the enormous differences between the two lifestyles. Bronte shows Cathy’s decision through the motif of a conflict between nature and culture shown in the descriptions of the two locations. Bronte organizes her novel by arranging its elements of characters, places, and themes into there corresponding pairs. Catherine and Heath cliff are closely matched in many ways, and see themselves as identical “He’s more I than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” As she proclaims to Nelly that ‘I am Heathcliff! he’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, anymore than I am always a pleasure to myself but as my own being’ This suggests to the audience that Cathy and Heathcliff are in effect made for each other which show the audience the destructive attributes of duty because she is unable to be with him which may describe as a tragedy.

The way Catherine’s character is divided into two warring sides creates intrigue in the novel and shows the obligation of traditional values in restraining love as Cathy says ‘if all else perished, and he remained, should still continue to be and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it’. This is shown through the side of Cathy that wants Edgar and the side that wants Heathcliff. As some critics argue that ‘The entire drama is a destruction of a human soul; how love can save and damn one man.’ This shows the destructive nature of duty because Cathy is constantly caught between her duty to her family in marrying a man of a high social status and her desire to be with her true love, Heathcliff.

In conclusion, all three writers show the destructive nature of duty through the characters fight between their head and there heart which is continuously represented in ‘Wuthering heights’ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ through the use of two locations and the limitations of their choices. Additionally all three writers show the destructive nature of duty through the physical separation of the characters from the people they love due to circumstance. In Wuthering heights this is represented through Cathy having to remain in thrush cross grange due to her marriage to Linton causing her to be separated from Heathcliff. This is also represented in atonement through Robbie being separated from Cecelia through his duty as a soldier and in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ Anthony’s duty to Rome where each writer presents the failure of the characters who are in love in saving each other.


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