True to his own human frailty, Antony attempts to fulfill his every desire and falls tragically short of achieving success in both his true role as ruler of Rome and his role as Cleopatra’s lover. Though his loyalty should be to the triumvirate, he neglects his position in an effort to also attain control over Cleopatra’s affection. Unable to perform both tasks adequately, he realizes that “ten thousand harms more than the ills I know / My idleness doth hatch” (1. 2. 144-145). In his longing to fulfill both roles, he fails to perform either sufficiently and instead causes greater harm to the people in both the worlds he is tries to support.
“The hearts / The spanieled me at heels, to whom I gave / Their wishes, do discandy, melt their sweets / On blossoming Caesar” (4. 12. 22-25). His struggle to earn the respect and care of Caesar and his officers ultimately failed because he abandoned his responsibilities as a leader in order to fulfill his task as a lover. In the end, Antony is unsuccessful in both roles, proven through his inability to retain the loyalty of his officers or sustain his relationship with Caesar or Cleopatra. The ultimate demise of one of the greatest warriors of Rome, Antony, leads to a mournful acceptance of human limitations.
The magnificence that had surrounded Antony throughout most of his life creates disbelief at the finality of his grandeur. Caesar knows that it was inevitable that either he or Antony would face defeat but he is still taken aback by the actual event of Antony’s death. “We could not stall together / In the whole world. But yet let me lament / With tears as sovereign as the blood of hearts… In top of all design, my mate in empire” (5. 1. 48-52). The greatness that had characterized Antony was not enough to save him from the fated failure of his struggle to reclaim his position in Rome.
Even Caesar, his fiercest competitor, recognizes with sorrow Antony’s death and proclaims that “the breaking of so great a thing should make / a greater crack” (5. 1. 17-18). Antony’s influence was so far-reaching, that Caesar notes that even the earth itself should have shaken with grief because the impact of his death touched everything. The failure of Antony and Caesar’s relationship culminating in Antony’s death epitomizes the human limitations that can hinder success. Caesar and Antony’s relationship throughout the play offers an extraordinary perspective of the turbulent events that are portrayed in Antony and Cleopatra.
It is through the failure of their relationship that the futility of Antony’s struggle to salvage the world that he rightfully belongs to, Rome, is most clearly evident. Despite his stately global status, Antony’s constant uncertainty about which relationship to honor and his true role, offers a painful example of the human limitations that exists within everyone. The futility of Antony’s efforts to fulfill both the roles he has subscribed to allows only for a mournful acceptance of confines determined by our own humanity.