OU essay submission – AA100

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Cleopatra – Open University Assignment Part 1

In the passage of text Plutarch projects an image of Cleopatra being in control and Antony acting as a subordinate, in what appears to be an unequal relationship. Cleopatra never left Antony alone and was constantly observing his habits and lifestyle; a seemingly overbearing dominance of his entire life as he was never given freedom from her constant presence.

Plutarch retells the story of the pontic herring, which again reveals the imbalance of the affiliation and this time the damaged male pride of Antony, as he is left humiliated in front of Cleopatra’s friends. With Cleopatra constantly by Antony’s side, this was bound to happen as she was aware that he was trying to deceive her by secretly fastening a fish to the line to give the impression of a competent fisherman.

This time Plutarch shows Cleopatra calling his bluff and humiliating him by tying a pre-prepared salted herring to the line, causing all in attendance to laugh at Antony’s folly. Her friends had already been informed about Antony’s deceit and fully primed for ridicule.

Plutarch depicts Cleopatra as the manipulator, the degrader and the woman firmly in control of Antony. This is a running theme throughout Plutarch’s writings, even though he was recalling tales some 150 years after they had actually happened.

Katherine A. Ott (2003) follows this line when she states, “Plutarch views Cleopatra as a purely negative influence over Antony… Plutarch portrays Cleopatra as a type of a witch who lures Antony away from Rome and seduces him to carry out her desires.” (http://f99.middlebury.edu/FS013A/cleopatra_by_ott.htm, accessed 08 November 2008).

Plutarch consistently steers away from portraying Antony and Cleopatra’s love affair as such  preferring to look upon their association as an example of great recklessness, especially on Antony’s part. Cleopatra had already had liaisons with Julius Caesar and she came from the mystical unknown of North Africa, an area of danger for the Roman Empire.

Plutarch contrasted this with the safeness and moral integrity of Antony’s upstanding Roman wife Octavia, which only offered fuel to his anti-Cleopatra stance.

In the textual passage, Antony is not only a failure at fishing but his pride is also dented by receiving blows and abuse while appearing in the role of a servant; presumably at the dictate of Cleopatra.

Trevor Fear recalls another story by Plutarch where Cleopatra again undermines any pretense Antony has of authority. In this passage she ignores his letters requesting her to meet him and then arrives in full pomp and splendour, seemingly on her own terms. Antony is completely upstaged as Cleopatra steals the limelight, leading Fear to establish that “Plutarch does not preclude there being genuine feeling between Antony and Cleopatra.” (Fear, 2008, p. 11).

Whatever Plutarch’s political motives and reasons for painting Cleopatra as the poisonously charming yet politically astute Egyptian queen; he uses every opportunity to reaffirm this view.

Taking into account his own motivations for apparent bias, Plutarch’s overall view of Cleopatra and Antony’s relationship appears disapproving, scathing and at times, contemptible.


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Ott, K.A. (2003) ‘A Moral Conflict: The Contrast of Character between Cleopatra and Octavia’, Middlebury Education website, http://f99.middlebury.edu/FS013A/cleopatra_by_ott.htm (accessed 08 November 2008).

Moohan, E. and Fear, T. (2008) ‘Cleopatra’, in Moohan (ed.) Reputations (AA100 Book 1), Milton Keynes, The Open University, p. 11)


Cezanne – Open University Assignment Part 2

In Cezanne and Matisse’s still life paintings, both artists employ Impressionist techniques. Cezanne’s paintings did not conform to conventional standards that were acceptable at the time. In the course book Clive Bell (1914 and 2008) even goes so far as to compare Cezanne’s achievements with those of Christopher Columbus (Bell. C, 2008, P.63).

Cezanne wants you to first look at the fruit which is why he uses a variety of fruits and colours against a light cloth, in the centre of the painting. The dark background and surroundings further emphasise this. Matisse directs us to the left and centre-left of his painting with orange fruit and a bright blue and white cloth; another effective use of colour in the composition.

Cezanne’s pyramid of fruit on the right hand side of the painting captures our attention because it is an arrangement of differing fruits collated to form a large singular object. We don’t notice the jug with quite the same urgency because it is painted darker and blends into the background, despite the two being equidistant.

By following the line from the top of the bowl and diagonally down, the structure is almost triangular. The use of dark and light gives a relaxed but melancholy feel to the Cezanne piece, while the Matisse painting is contrastingly more imperative and alert. Matisse creates a spacious feel while Cezanne has the fruit liberally spread and therefore taking up more room.

You could almost split the Cezanne painting into two diagonal halves of varied tone with the left upper as dark while the right lower is noticeably lighter. The dark tone of the outside frame forces us to look inwards at the fruit and cloth, making them the literal centre of the painting. Matisse meanwhile does not use a particularly strong sense of tonal change as the white blends into light blue and then darker blue on the back wall.

Cezanne makes the jug appear almost three dimensional by painting the handle outwards so we can see some of the far side, tempting the observer to reach out and grasp the object. This is made clearer by Charles Harrison’s ‘literal surface’ (Harrison. C, 2008, p. 65) explanation, regarding the illusions of the canvas.

Matisse omits shadows from the bottom of his four pieces of fruit in the fruit bowl which gives the illusion that we can just reach out and grab them as they hover in the bowl.

The brush strokes employed by Cezanne follow the contours of the fruit and are detailed enough for us to even make out speckles on the peel of the lemon. Matisse’s parallel strokes can be seen on the sideboard and wall in particular. The Impressionists used “…stiff square-ended brushes, leaving the separate touches often unblended on the surface of their paintings” (Harrison. C, 2008, 66) and I think this is evident in both pieces.

There is a comparative use of colour in each painting, as Matisse was a great user of expressive colours. Therefore, Matisse’s painting is a lot lighter whereas Cezanne’s dark monochromatic background brings forth the light foreground. Cezanne’s style was ‘of a dark pallet’ (Taylor-Russell, 1993, p. 185) with dark colours offering form and balance. Matisse’s cloth is of a formal pattern of melancholy blue.



Moohan, E. (2008) and Bell, C (1914)quoted in  ‘Cezanne’, in Moohan (ed.) Reputations (AA100 Book 1), Milton Keynes, The Open University, p. 63).

Moohan, E. and Harrison, C (2008) ‘Cezanne’, in Moohan (ed.) Reputations (AA100 Book 1), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 65-66).

Taylor-Russell, J. (1993) Impressionist Dreams, Grange Books, Random House UK.


OU Tutor feedback and comments

Good opening, but Plutarch does seem to imply that Antony was a willing partner.

Note how Cleopatra uses this incident to remind him of his true talents and destiny, which of course are linked to her own political ambitions.

Middlebury.edu is good additional reading.

On the Peter Fear quote it’s better to stick to comment on the set passage for this essay – this is where your focus should be!

Very good conclusion! However, try to make your paragraphs more than one sentence long.

Writer’s comments: “I’ve come a long way since then! Tighter referencing and use of the passive voice needed.”