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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2

The politics is very, very complicated in this play. Ah how characters say things they don't mean, and the tension oozes between the lines.

So at the end of Act 2, Pompey is persuaded by the triumvirates (Octavius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Lepidus) to cease his war against Rome. He agrees, probably in fear of Antony's presence, and they all shake on the deal by drinking on his boat that night. During the feast for peace, Pompey's right hand man Menas whispers in his master's ear:

These three world-sharers, these competitors,
Are in thy vessel. Let me cut the cable,
And, when we are put off, fall to their throats,
All there is thine. 

What a simple and practical plan. The proposal is of the same nature as the Red Wedding. Pompey refuses with a most honest reply:

Ah, this thou shouldst have done
And not have spoke on 't! In me 'tis villainy;
In thee 't had been good service. Thou must know,
'Tis not my profit that does lead mine honor;
Mine honor, it. Repent that e'er thy tongue
Hath so betrayed thine act. Being done unknown,
I should have found it afterwards well done,
But must condemn it now. Desist, and drink. 

Of course Pompey is right. The leader must have deniability to the dishonorable atrocities his subordinates commit, especially if the acts profit him. A true loyal follower has to always be willing to give his master this, or he would be useless.

Ah such is the dilemma of leadership. Without his reputation of honor, Pompey is but a man with no one to lead. Yet with his honor he would have to lose the one chance for "all there is thine." The same dilemma has plagued all leaders throughout history, which is why those who won --- like Octavius --- always cultivate followers who would do the dirty work without asking first.

Still, the question remains, why the hell is Shakespeare so fucking Machiavellian?

(接下来第三幕一开头就是 Ventidius 的一番“功高盖主”和“兔死狗烹”论,我吐血倒地。)

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