Philo’s opening line to the play, “Nay, but this dotage of our general’s/ O’erflows the measure”, introduces Antony in such a way that his, flaw, that he lacks moderation, is already apparent. This is not the only view of Antony we see in the opening scene, we also hear he has a “captain’s heart” even if his courage lacks restraint.
The use of classical imagery when talking about his eyes, describing them as though they “…glowed like plated Mars”, show him to be a warrior but in contrast he is also called a “strumpet’s fool”, which shows that despite his Godlike qualities he also possesses some less desirable ones. He seems able to be dominated by women; both Cleopatra and Fulvia have some power over him.
This can be seen by Cleopatra’s use of the imperative when she says, “If it be love indeed, tell me how much” and also when she suggests Antony will be scolded by “shrill-tongued Fulvia”. Antony seems a likeable character from the way he treats his soldiers and he is loved by his men who he treats as friends as well as subjects. The reason for this does not become truly apparent until later in the play but an excellent example of this can be seen when Enobarbus deserts Antony to join Caesar but Antony sends over Enobarbus’ treasure because even though he has now left him, he feels he was loyal for many years and deserves it.
Antony also seems likeable from the way he charms Cleopatra but he appears to be easily captivated by her which could be seen as a weakness. Antony does seem to be able to see his faults at times which makes him seem more real and easier to relate to since he accepts his flaws even if he makes little attempt to change. In Scene Two Antony tells the messenger to “taunt [his] flaws” whether they are real or just malicious rumours.
Although military-minded, Antony retains his kind disposition even when things are not in his favour. Caesar, on the other hand, is very Roman in the sense he is concerned solely with business and politics. Antony, despite being Roman, takes a more Egyptian approach to life and is more idle, indulgent and concerned with love. This isn’t how he always was; throughout the play we hear glimpses of the ‘old Antony’ who was courageous, business minded and a powerful warrior but at the end of the play he even loses his position as part of the triumvirate, a sign of his fall from power which was largely influenced by Cleopatra.
Caesar tells Antony he is “too indulgent” and that he is neglecting his duties as part of the triumvirate by sleeping with Cleopatra (“…Let’s grant it not/Amiss to tumble on the bed of Ptolemy”). Antony takes no notice of Caesar and so his power becomes significantly less as he neglects his duties more. In Act One Scene Four Caesar even admits he once admired Antony but his indulgences made him lose all respect for him.
When trying to decided whether Antony can be called a tragic figure it is necessary to consider whether Antony and Cleopatra can be regarded as one. According to Aristotle, “Tragedy is a form of drama exciting the emotions of pity and fear. Its action should be single and complete, presenting a reversal of fortune, involving persons renowned and of superior attainments…”
Antony is most definitely a powerful character at the beginning of the play but loses everything so in that respect it is fair to call Antony and Cleopatra a tragedy. Antony also has a flaw, he lacks self-control and it is this which leads to his downfall. Tragic flaws are necessary in tragedies but it is not only this which leads to his demise; in Act Two Scene Three Antony’s fate already seems decided when a Soothsayer tells Antony that he should stay away from Caesar because “If thou dost play with him at any game,/Thou art sure to lose…”.
This idea of fate being to blame for the tragic figures ruin was common in Medieval Tragedy. Antony and Cleopatra differs from Shakespeare’s other tragedies in the sense that Antony doesn’t seem to go through any kind of struggle but instead, although he does fall it is not a steady descent. According to A.C Bradley, “to regard this tragedy as a rival of the famous four, is surely an error” since unlike in other tragedies we are both concerned and detached to Antony as well as the play not being as “dramatically exciting” as the other tragedies.