In Act 2 Scene 2, Enobarbus describes the first meeting between Antony and Cleopatra on the Nile, in all its glory. Enobarbus, a typically blunt solider uses poetic language in describing Cleopatra’s appearance, showing the effect that the Egypt Queen has on men, making her seem all the more powerful. ‘The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne Burned in the water’ conveys a sensual impression of Cleopatra, showing her coming down the Nile in the most luxurious fashion making her seem like a desirable object for the Roman men.
The description of silver and gold on the barge Cleopatra travelled on shows the elegance the Egyptian Queen carries with her and the impression she leaves on men. Enobarbus recalls the scene using both visual and olfactory imagery – ‘Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The winds were lovesick’, even personifying the wind, to give us the impression that Cleopatra is intoxicating to those who see her; that they can recall their time near her in great detail.
It is said that Cleopatra’s appearance ‘beggared all description’ and that she is, ‘O’erpicturing the Venus where we see The fancy outwork nature’ – We get the impression through Enobarbus’ description that Cleopatra is a great beauty, as he cannot find words to describe her appearance; that not even the portrait of Venus herself is a match nor a strong enough portrayal of her. Caesural pauses are used throughout Enobarbus’ description, and these pauses help emphasise how breath taking Cleopatra seems to be.
When the Egyptian Queen is on the barge, it is said ‘On each side her Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids’ – the simile used, shows the queen in almost awe, as cupids are associated with love which most people crave and when used with Cleopatra, it would portray her as wanton – to be desired and craved. Nearly every detail of Cleopatra’s appearance is described by the solider, as he even notes that the winds ‘did seem To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool’.
This language would not have been expected from the almost cynical soldier, and gives us the impression that Cleopatra has a bewitching effect on those she meets, showing her to be even more desirable. Enobarbus later refers to Cleopatra’s gentlewomen who tend to her as mermaids and sea-nymphs, the daughters of Nereus the sea god – this makes Cleopatra seem almost other-worldly and gives us the impression that she is a beauty that no one has ever seen before; that she cannot simply be described in earthly terms.
It is said that her gentlewomen ‘made their bends adorning’, their bowing movements help show the powerful position Cleoptra is in which gives us the impression she should not be overlooked but attention should be given to her. Cleopatra’s entrance on the barge seems almost mystical as Enobarbus says ‘the silken tackle Swell with the touches of those flower-soft hands’ adding to the sensual appearance of the Queens entry making her seems all the more desirable.
Cleopatra seems to be intoxicating when approaching as it is said ‘a strange invisible perfume hits the sense’ making it seem as though the Egyptian has an effusive beauty about her which fills your every sense, leaving room for no other thoughts than of her. In Enobarbus’ description of Cleopatra’ entrance, he makes great use of polysyllabic language that would not be expected from a Roman Soldier, never mind used by him in describing an Egyptian beauty. This helps show the effect that Cleopatra has on nearly all men, giving the impression that she is that enchanting, men will fall and become besotted by her.
Enobarbus mentions Antony first, in his political authoritarian manner through ‘Enthroned i’th’market-place, did sit alone’ but shows that he too was drawn to Cleopatra. We get the impression through this, that Cleopatra is that intriguing and electrifying that even the strongest soldiers fall for her. Enobarbus finally says ‘And made a gap in nature’ when describing Antony going to Cleopatra, to make it seem unnatural that a man of Antony’s position would seek her out, however this shows us that Cleopatra could captivate any man, despite their restraint.