Prelim Assessment Task: Powerplay Essay Composed in response to, "Relationships at all levels involve complex powerplay". Detailed analysis of Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" (1606), Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" (2000) and George Orwellâ€™s â€œAnimal Farmâ€? (1945)
“Powerplay” necessitates the multifaceted manipulation of power in public and private relationships to achieve pre-eminence. The interplay of power exists to stipulate the associated characters to stupendously struggle for dominance, popularity and influence at political, sexual, military and psychological levels. This intricate notion of powerplay and the corruption arising from power is profoundly manifested in relationships at all levels within Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra (1606), Ridley Scott's film Gladiator (2000) and George Orwell’s allegorical novel “Animal Farm” (1945). The composers of their respective texts employ a multiplicity of techniques such as dramatic irony, contrasting ideologies, varying dialogues, and close ups to deduce that “relationships at all levels involve complex powerplay”.
Shakespeare’s text, Antony and Cleopatra, prominently conveys sexual powerplay as the ‘battle of the sexes’, most evident in Cleopatra’s personal relationship with Antony. Cleopatra’s sexual vivaciousness is personified though, “the barge she sat in...the poop was beaten gold...the winds were love-sick” and her sexual femininity, “gypsy’s lust”, assists in her emotional manipulation of Antony, “stirred by Cleopatra, now for the love of love and her soft hours.” Cleopatra applies dramatic irony, “go tell him I have slain myself… the last word I spoke was Antony” and asks rhetorical questions, “If it be love indeed, tell me how much?” to taunt him, manipulate his thoughts and win his love, “My heart was to thy rudder”. Her cunning allure and sexual supremacy is denoted through emotive language, “See where he (Antony) is … if in mirth report I am sudden sick” and vivid imagery, “her winds and waters sighs and tears” Accordingly, Cleopatra’s “magic” has helped her gain dominance via sexuality, over the emasculated Antony, as exemplified in "O thou vile lady! She has robbed me of my sword," a metaphor demonstrating his loss of sexual and military dexterity.
The intricacy of powerplay is further profusely augmented in Antony and Caesar’s political relationship, wherein the personas compete for power and authority over Rome. Political powerplay is coherent with the juxtaposition of the opposing personalities and ideologies of Antony, a hedonist, and Caesar, an ascetic. Here, Shakespeare contrasts scenes, Egypt vs Rome, and employs varying dialogue “My being in Egypt, Caesar, what was’t to you?” with “[Nothing] Yet if you there did practise on my state, your being in Egypt might be my question” to signify that political powerplay (ie. Politics) is driven by a clash of personality and ideology. Caesar’s asceticism, “I had rather fast from all, four days, than drink so much in one” is juxtaposed to Antony’s hedonism with Cleopatra, “there’s not a minute of our lives should stretch” to suggest the conflicting nature of sexual and political duty; exposing the convoluted and interrelated nature of powerplay.
Rather than diplomacy, both sides engage in military prowess (powerplay) as a means of gaining political supremacy. Antony challenges Caesar, “our great competitor”, to battle “sword against sword... ourselves alone” conveying the notion of military powerplay. Caesar’s inexorable desire to succeed is idiosyncratic of military powerplay, illuminated through his lack of respect for life “Place those that have revolted in the vant” and Antony is empowered through metaphorical innuendo, “plated Mars” (Roman God of War). However, the transience of power is later exemplified with “Our leader’s led and we are women’s men”, symbolism enforcing Antony’s loss of popularity (and hence political dexterity) to Cleopatra’s seductive sexual powerplay.