“Relationships at all levels involve complex power play. ” The term ‘power play’ refers to the political, social, militaristic, sexual and personal struggles between opposing forces. All relationships, regardless of how intimate or distant they may be, involve different concepts of complex power plays. These concepts are exemplified in William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra which demonstrates military power, the physical application of political power, between opposing forces as a means of gaining power over Rome and Egypt.
The main power play in this text revolves around the concept of politics and is seen between Antony and Caesar throughout the first act of this play. From the very beginning we are given no illusion as to the nature of the relationship which exists between the two with the first sentence we hear Caesar speak referring to Antony as “our great competitor”.
This is the platform on which the power play of the text evolves, reaching a peak at the beginning of the second act where lives are changed not out of love, referring to the arranged marriage between Antony and Octavia, but out of an idea that perhaps an advantage could lie in the arranged marriage. In Egypt, the convoluted sexual power play takes place between Antony and Cleopatra. Initially, she is described as a ‘lustful gypsy’, a ‘wrangling queen’, and ‘cunning past man’s thought’, to ‘an Egyptian dish’.
The power which she employs over Antony is a different type of power to that of the Roman Empire, usually sexually stimulated with constant emotional blackmail; “So mightily betrayed! Yet at the first I saw the treasons planted”, her power is something that Antony has never come up against. This serves to keep Antony as Cleopatra’s faithful pet, always on the defensive and in the eyes of others particularly the ones viewing from Rome, this negatively impacts on his once undisputed power status, “Nay, but this dotage of our general’s o’erflows the measure”.
Even within their casual day-to-day speech, there is a sort of power play involved. Antony’s stoic, colourless mode of speech stands in complete contrast to the hyperbolic and over dramatized speeches Cleopatra constantly uses to try and pull on the heart strings of Antony. These continuous displays of power between Antony and Cleopatra have contributed to the main power play in Egypt. Concepts of military, sexual and political power are also conveyed in Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans where military power is being contested for by the French and the British over newfound America. This spect of gaining power through violence ascertains the fact that deceit and materialistic power, power that is gained by having more assets, are methods of acquiring and strengthening power. These methods of gaining power are apparent in Antony and Cleopatra through Octavius who manipulates and uses innocent people, his sister for example, for imperial and personal power. This shows that power play has an effect on the little people who are manipulated. In The Last of the Mohicans, the struggle of power between the French and the English affect the smaller Native American tribes, who are at the disposal of both opposing sides.
Panoramic shots, combined with both diegetic and non-diegetic sound, as well as low angle shots used on the natives, emphasizes the amount of power they hold in turning the tide of the battle. The English are continuously deceiving the natives, by lying and tricking them into believing that they could return to defend their homes in the situations required them to, as a way to ensure their help on the frontline, therefore attempting to gain power through lies and treachery.
This aspect of gaining power is shown in Antony and Cleopatra again through Octavius, where after agreeing to a truce, he breaks it not long after with the help of his allies and vanquishes Pompey. This emphasizes the fact that power corrupts and that honesty and frankness are not the best methods in obtaining power. The women in The Last of the Mohicans are seen to hold no military power at all. This is conveyed in all scenes fighting is involved, with close-up and mid-range shots used to capture the moments, where the women are constantly shown helpless and in need of rescue.
This displays the lack of militaristic power in women, who are ensnared by patriarchal power, where they are powerless and must submit to the will of men. Cleopatra also displays this lack of military power where she flees the battlefield whilst fighting alongside her lover, Antony, thus highlighting the fact sexual power is the most easily attainable form of power for women. When Hawkeye states “I’ve got a reason to stay,” it shows that sexual power of the English woman, Cora, has influenced him to forego an important mission with his people, demonstrating her sexual power play.
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm both political and militaristic power are clearly conveyed through Napoleon, the dictator of Animal Farm. At first the pigs control the animals on the farm blindly but soon realize that they require a power base, the support of the people, represented by the animals, before they can claim power over the farm. They achieve this through providing the seven commandments which appear to provide the animas with a much better life, thus gaining their support. “All animals are equal…all animals nodded in agreement”.
In Antony and Cleopatra the importance of maintaining political power is also reinforced through the concept of a power base. Continuance of power relies on the support of the people – the ‘power base’. The people of Rome are indecisive and are easily swayed by showiness and ceremony. Both Antony and Caesar note the importance of holding a strong power base and this is shown when Antony leaves Cleopatra to return to Rome to strengthen his relationship with his people who are waiting for their great General, “Our Italy shines o’er with civil swords”.
Political leadership and military prowess are both synonymous within the two texts due to the period in history in which they were set. Napoleon’s military power is conveyed through the use of his trained army of dogs which he uses to defeat and exile Snowball. Similarly whilst Caesar gains power due to his military prowess, Antony is losing military power and respect due to his lack of discharging his duties in Rome. The battle between Antony and Caesar is the epitome of Antony’s demise of military power and Caesar’s rise. Animal Farm also employs a different type of power play, the power of deception.
It is used to deceive someone in order to manipulate the situation to gain power. The pigs deceive the animals saying they are all equal, when in reality “Some animals are more equal than others”. This deceptive power play is conveyed in Antony and Cleopatra when Antony marries Octavia. He does this to create peace within the triumvirate, so that he would not lose his power and influence in Rome, and cement his political position, while in truth, his love lies with Cleopatra, “And thou I make this marriage for my peace, in the East my pleasure lie”.
Cleopatra’s mind games also allow her to manipulate the actions of Antony, “If you find him sad, say I am dancing”. Unequivocally, power plays are complexly involved in all relationships. They can be found in many texts of English literature and provide us with the ideas and thoughts required to better understand the messages and/or themes being expressed. The numerous interpretations that are applicable to power play make the texts thoroughly cryptic and enhance our thoughts of the convolutions of power unquestionably increased through its many meanings. WILLIAM PARK