In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare highlights two great cultures of efficient reasonable society of Rome and self –indulgent society of Egypt. The two great civilizations were bi-polar and they repelled each other like same sides of two magnates . Tiber, 1the river of Rome connects Europe with the rest of known world, symbolizes the maturity and highly consciousness of Romans.
"Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch.
Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space.".
Whereas River Nile of Egypt provides fertile land and symbolizes passion and liberty. Shakespeare tries to unify and harmonizes these contrasts in form of romantic love of Antony and Cleopatra but he is also aware of the consequences of this unification which turns to great disaster due to the clash of civilizations. The audience is introduced to this threat in the beginning of the play when the Roman Soldiers see Antony as 'a strumpet's fool' (1.1.13) where as Antony finds a 'new heaven , new earth ' in the love of Cleopatra. The clash of civilizations is the one of the main reason behind the tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra. Although the clash of civilization is the recent theory of Samuel Huntington2 who predicts the clash in modern world will be cultural and religious. This statement is also relevant to ancient world where major conflicts were cultural and religious. Shakespeare has blended the contrasting elements in the play and he highlight that whatever the lovers do has repercussions in the world.
The play, Antony and Cleopatra was written in 1606 named as tragedy though it has the element of comedy as well as history. Shakespeare has based his play on Plutarch's 3narrative of Roman characters .A.C.Bradley does not consider it the real tragedy because he thinks that it lacks certain convention of tragedy. It may fall between tragedy and history .However T.S Coleridge rates it one the finest history play as he says: 'Of all Shakspeare's historical plays, Antony and Cleopatra is by far the most wonderful.