Guide Compiled by Michael J. Cummings...©
and Cleopatra is stage play in the form of a tragedy. It is also a
history play, since it is based on real events in ancient times, and a
story of passionate love.
often group it as one of Shakespeare’s “Roman plays," along with
and Julius Caesar.
Written: 1606 and 1607.
Printing: 1623 as part of the First Folio, the first authorized collection
of Shakespeare's plays
main source for the play was Life of Marcus Antonius, by Plutarch
(46?-120?). This biography is part of a larger Plutarch work, Parallel
Lives, focusing mainly on famous Greek and Roman government and military
leaders. Shakespeare used the English translation of Parallel Lives
written by Sir Thomas North (1535-1601). North's translation, based in
part on a French translation, was published in 1579 under the title The
Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes [Romans].
may also have reviewed the 1578 French play Marc Antoine, by Robert
Garnier, which was translated into English in 1595 by Mary Sidney Herbert,
the Countess of Pembroke; the 1543 tragedy Cleopatra, by Giambattista
Giraldi, known as Cinthio; and the 1599 play The Tragedy of Cleopatra,
by Samuel Daniel.
action takes place in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East between 40 and
30 BC. The grand, far-flung, macrocosmic scope of the settings helps to
underscore the immensity of the political and emotional drives and impulses
at work in the play. The settings also serve to demonstrate the pronounced
differences between sober, straitlaced Rome and hedonistic, decadent Egypt.
settings include the following: Cleopatra's palace in Alexandria, Egypt;
the house of Octavius Caesar in Rome, Italy; the house of Sextus Pompeius
in Messina, Italy; the house of Lepidus in Rome; a street in Rome; a meeting
place near Misenum, Italy; the galley of Sextus Pompeius off Misenum; a
plain in Syria; Mark Antony's residence in Athens, Greece; Mark Antony's
camp near Actium, Greece; a plain near Actium; Octavius Caesar's camp in
Egypt; Mark Antony's camp at Alexandria; Egyptian field of battle; the
walls at Alexandria; a monument at Alexandria.
Mark Antony, Cleopatra
Antagonists: (1) Octavius Caesar, (2) Antony's Inability to Resist Cleopatra
Antagonists: (1) Activities Sidetracking Antony; (2) Octavius, Fulvia,
Antony: Roman general and one of the three men (triumvirs) who rule
Rome after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. After visiting
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, he falls passionately in love with her, abandoning
the strict self-control and restraint expected of Roman rulers and embracing
the relaxed, laissez-faire morality and lifestyle of the Egyptians. Eventually,
he provokes the wrath of one of his co-rulers, Octavius Caesar. The two
men become enemies and go to war.
Seductive and cunning Queen of Egypt in the Macedonian dynasty. She was
the seventh Cleopatra, having the full title of Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
[Goddess Who Loves Her Father]. Cleopatra, in her late twenties during
her affair with Antony, was born in 69 BC as the second daughter of King
Ptolemy XII. Ptolemy was a descendant of a Macedonian serving under Alexander
the Great during Alexander's conquests in Egypt. After her father died
in 51 BC, Cleopatra and her brother, Ptolemy XIII, became teenage co-rulers
and, by custom, married, although they later became enemies and fought
for control of the government. Before her affair with Mark Antony, she
had an amorous relationship with Julius Caesar, who helped her defeat her
brother and claim the throne. She gave birth to a child believed to have
been fathered by Caesar; she named him Caesarion.
Caesar (Octavian): One of the three men (triumvirs) who rule Rome after
the assassination of Julius Caesar. The nephew and heir of Julius Caesar,
Octavius is cunning and ambitious, an altogether formidable opponent for
Antony. After he and Antony become enemies, Octavius leads his forces against
Antony, pursuing him relentlessly.
Octavius's sister. Antony marries her after his first wife dies.
Aemilius Lepidus: One of the three men (triumvirs) who rule Rome after
the assassination of Julius Caesar. Lepidus is weak and ineffectual. Eventually,
Octavius Caesar kicks him out of office.
Pompeius (Pompey): Son of the late Pompey the Great. Sextus (called
Pompey in the play) threatens war against Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus,
but agrees to a peace treaty that averts conflict. However, ambitious Octavius
later attacks and defeats Pompey, thereby provoking war with Antony.
Enobarbus: Antony's faithful right-hand man. Enobarbus is honest, down-to-earth
and full of common sense—which, of course, Antony fails to heed.
Eros, Scarus, Dercetas, Demetrius, Philo: Friends of Antony.
Important military commander and advisor of Octavius. He suggests that
Antony marry Octavia. Agrippa also masterminds Octavius's victories over
Sextus Pompeius and Antony.
and attendant of Octavius. He is the first to notice the asp's marks on
Cleopatra's lifeless body.
Friends of Octavius.
Varrius: Friends of Sextus Pompeius.
Lieutenant-general of Caesar.
Lieutenant-general of Antony.
Officer in Ventidius's army.
Ambassador from Antony to Caesar.
Mardian the Eunuch, Seleucus, Diomedes: Cleopatra's attendants.
Iras: Maids of honor attending Cleopatra.
Proculeius: Men charged with carrying a message from Octavian to Cleopatra.
Octavius, Marcus Justeius, Publicola, Cælius:
Strategists in Antony's army who support his plan to fight Octavius at
Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants
Antony Petitions to Fight With Him Against Octavius
the King of Libya
King of Paphlagonia
King of Thrace
King of Arabia
King of Comagene
King of Mede
King of Lycaonia
play assumes that the audience is familiar with events that took place
before Mark Antony's affair in Egypt with Cleopatra. These events include
the assassination of Julius Caesar (44 BC) and the formation of a ruling
Roman triumvirate of Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.
When the armies of the triumvirate track down the armies of the assassins
during a civil war, Egypt refuses to participate on the triumvirate's side.
Antony summons Queen Cleopatra to Tarsus, Cicilia (present-day Turkey),
to explain Egypt's position. But Antony falls in love with her and returns
with her to Alexandria, Egypt. Shakespeare's play begins there, in Alexandria,
four years after Julius Caesar's assassination.
Michael J. Cummings...©
great military commander Mark Antony is one of the three who rule Rome
after the assassination of Julius Caesar at the hands of conspirators.
His co-rulers are Octavius Caesar, called Octavian (to be known in later
history as Augustus Caesar), and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Because Antony
is a seasoned leader—a leader with charisma, experience and resolve—he
enjoys the admiration of his soldiers and the Roman citizens. But Antony’s
popularity is shortlived, as Shakespeare’s audience discovers when Act
I opens in Alexandria, Egypt, where Antony languishes under the spell of
Cleopatra’s incomparable beauty and charm. She spends her every wile and
witchery on binding his heart to hers—and the world and Rome be damned.
In a room in Cleopatra’s palace, one of Antony’s friends, Philo, observes
that Antony’s love affair with Cleopatra has turned him into “the bellows
and the fan / to cool a gipsy’s lust" (1.1.11-12). So captivated is Antony
by Cleopatra that he forgets all else—Rome, duty, his wife Fulvia. Philo
but good note, and you shall see in him
Cleopatra enters the room with her ladies in waiting and eunuchs fanning
her, she asks Antony how much he loves her. He replies that she will need
to find “new heaven, new earth" (1.1.20) to set the boundaries of his love.
An attendant arrives to alert Antony that news has arrived from Rome. Jealous
of anyone who would turn Antony’s attention away from her, Cleopatra says—perhaps
in a pouting yet mocking tone—that the message is probably from Antony’s
peevish wife, Fulvia, or from “scarce-bearded Caesar" (Octavius: 1.1.26)
commanding Antony to do his bidding. Antony pacifies her, saying,
triple pillar of the world transform’d
a strumpet’s fool; behold and see. (1.1.14-16)
for the love of Love and her soft hours,
Antony’s passion for Cleopatra seems all-consuming, there remains in him
a spark of propriety, responsibility, duty. Cleopatra has not yet captured
the whole of his soul. Thus, while with Cleopatra later, he suddenly gets
up and leaves when his sense of duty seizes him. When she goes looking
for him, she tells Enobarbus, “He was dispos’d to mirth; but on the sudden
/ A Roman thought hath struck him" (1.2.58-59). At that moment, Antony
is meeting with the messenger from Rome, who bears bad news: Antony’s wife
has died. What is more, civil war is about to erupt. Antony tells his right-hand
man, Enobarbus, to make ready to depart for Rome. Enobarbus observes that
news of his departure will devastate the queen: “Cleopatra, catching but
the least noise of this, dies instantly; I have seen her die twenty times
upon far poorer moment. I do think there is mettle in death which commits
some loving act upon her, she hath such a celerity in dying (1.2.120).
Antony replies, “She is cunning past man’s thought" (121).
not confound the time with conference harsh:
not a minute of our lives should stretch
some pleasure now. (1.1.52-55)
Cleopatra does protest at first, but then yields to his plan. After all,
Fulvia is dead; she cannot vie against Cleopatra for Antony’s affections.
While Antony returns to Rome, Octavian and Lepidus plan their defense against
their enemy, Sextus Pompeius (the son of the late Pompey the Great), who
is massing troops in Sicily. Upon Antony’s arrival in Rome, Octavian quarrels
with him over his inattention to duty. In the end, though, calm prevails
when Antony agrees to marry Octavian’s sister, Octavia, to firm up political
ties between the two men.
Alexandria, time passes slowly for Cleopatra as she awaits news of Antony.
When a messenger finally arrives and tells her Antony has married Octavia,
she flies into a paroxysm of rage. Perhaps, if browbeaten, the messenger
will change his story; perhaps he will tell her what she wants to hear—that
Antony is coming back. But, of course, the messenger cannot and does not,
for Antony is in Rome on government business. He and the other two triumvirs
are concluding an agreement with Pompeius (who, like his father, is usually
addressed as Pompey) that will avert war and bring peace.
agreement grants Pompey control of Sicily and Sardinia in exchange for
his pledge to rid the sea of pirates and to send cargoes of wheat to Rome.
In celebration of the treaty, Pompey throws a lavish party on one of his
ships. Drinks flow. Enemies are reconciled.
one of Pompey’s men, Menas, tells Pompey that he knows how to make his
master “lord of the whole world" (2.7.52). When Pompey inquires further,
Menas suggests a plot to murder the triumvirs. But Pompey says such a path
to glory would dishonor him, and he orders Menas to repent his sinful thoughts.
Little does Pompey know that one of the triumvirs, Octavius, has plans
of his own to become lord of the world.
the days that follow, Antony and his new wife go to Athens. There, Antony
takes command of the eastern armies in a campaign against the Parthians.
But while Antony is gone, Octavius begins to act like a dictator. First
Octavius makes war anew on Pompey but refuses to share the glory and spoils
after defeating him. Then he kicks Lepidus out of power, claiming “Lepidus
was grown too cruel; that he his high authority abused" (3.6.39). Lepidus
is imprisoned, and his property is confiscated. When word of Octavius’s
actions reaches Antony, he tells his wife Octavia that he is greatly displeased.
Octavia then goes to Rome to patch things up between her brother and her
Antony returns to his real love, Cleopatra, and prepares his army for war
against Octavius. When the report of Antony’s return to Egypt reaches Octavius,
he asserts that Antony has abandoned not only his wife but also Rome itself
by allying himself with Cleopatra. He tells Mecaenas:
the market-place, on a tribunal1
and Antony then mobilize for war against each other. By late summer of
31 BC, Antony makes camp at Actium on the western coast of Greece with
70,000 foot soldiers and a fleet of several hundred ships. With the support
of Cleopatra, Antony decides to fight a sea battle even though Octavius
has superior naval forces, commanded by Marcus Agrippa. Enobarbus protests
Antony’s plan, urging his leader to fight on land where he will have the
advantage. But Antony pays no heed.
and himself in chairs of gold
publicly enthron’d; at the feet sat
whom they call my father’s son,
all the unlawful issue that their lust
then hath made between them. Unto her
gave the ’stablishment of Egypt; made her
Lower Syria, Cyprus, Lydia,
queen. (3. 6. 5-13)
Your ships are not well mann’d;
the two Roman fleets clash, Cleopatra and her fleet are there also. But
at the height of the fighting, she withdraws with her fleet, having had
enough of war. It is not entirely clear whether she withdraws because she
is afraid of the horror of battle or because she is considering abandoning
Antony in favor of reaching a concord with Octavius. To his great shame,
Antony also abandons the fight to follow her. Octavius then completes the
rout. As victor, he dictates terms to Cleopatra: Keep your kingdom but
expel Antony from it.
mariners are muleters, reapers, people 48
by swift impress; in Cæsar’s fleet
those that often have gainst Pompey fought:
ships are yare; yours, heavy. No disgrace
fall you for refusing him at sea, 52
prepar’d for land.
By sea, by sea.
Most worthy sir, you therein throw away
absolute soldiership you have by land; 56
your army, which doth most consist
war-mark’d footmen; leave unexecuted
own renowned knowledge; quite forego
way which promises assurance; and 60
up yourself merely to chance and hazard
I’ll fight at sea. (3.7.47-62)
Antony challenges Octavius to a duel. Octavius scoffs at the challenge.
Fearing the worst, Antony’s forces begin to desert him. Even Enobarbus
flees. But when Antony sends a mule train of treasure after him as a parting
gesture of goodwill, Enobarbus repents his action and dies of a broken
heart. In renewed war, Antony and his remaining forces fight Octavian’s
army on land and win a victory. But when the fighting shifts back to the
sea with the Egyptian fleet again participating, the Egyptians surrender
and disaster follows.
Cleopatra has betrayed him, Antony renounces her:
foul Egyptian hath betrayed me:
soften his heart, Cleopatra, now hiding in a funeral monument reserved
for her, sends a messenger to tell Antony a lie: Queen Cleopatra has taken
her own life; she thought and spoke only of Antony at the end. Devastated,
Antony orders one of his men, Eros, to kill him. But Eros commits suicide
rather than strike down his beloved master. Antony then tries to kill himself
by falling on his sword. He wounds himself but does not die. Cleopatra,
worried that her little trick may have backfired, sends word to Antony
that she is still alive. Racked as much by the pangs of love as by the
pangs of his wound, Antony has attendants carry his body to her. There,
in her arms, he dies. After Octavius arrives, Cleopatra decides to follow
Antony to eternity. However, her motive does not necessarily spring from
a broken heart; in fact, it seems likely that she chooses death rather
than the humiliation of becoming Octavian’s captive. She tells her attendant
Iras that both of them will be paraded in Rome like trophies. When Iras
replies, “The gods forbid!," Cleopatra says that
fleet hath yielded to the foe; and yonder
cast their caps up and carouse together
friends long lost. Triple-turn’d whore! . . . (4.1.31-34)
her command, two asps are brought to her in a basket. She then dresses
in her royal attire, and Iras places her crown on her head. Finally, she
bids farewell to her attendants and puts one snake on her breast and another
on an arm. They do their work, and death follows quickly. Octavius orders
Antony and Cleopatra to be buried together, saying, “No grave upon the
earth shall clip in it / A pair so famous. . . ." (5.2.418).
catch at us, like strumpets; and scald rimers3
us out o’ tune: the quick comedians
will stage us, and present
Alexandrian revels. Antony
be brought drunken forth, and I shall see
boy my greatness
the posture of a whore. (5.2.260-267)
climax of a play or another narrative work, such as a short story or a
novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins
to resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most exciting
event in a series of events. The climax of Antony and Cleopatra
occurs, according to the first definition, in Act III, Scene VII, when
Antony decides to wage naval warfare against Octavius, a grave mistake
that signals the beginning of Antony's military downfall. According to
the second definition, the climax occurs over an extended period in which
Antony and Cleopatra die. .
in Julius Caesar, Shakespeare's prequel to Antony and Cleopatra,
prophecies foreshadow tragic developments. In Act I, Scene I, a soothsayer
in Egypt reads the palm of Cleopatra's attendant, Charmian, and tells her
that she will outlive her mistress. In Act II, Scene II, a soothsayer in
Rome advises Antony that the fortunes of Octavius will rise higher than
passion mutes the voice of reason and leads to the death of two mighty
leaders. Antony and Cleopatra both pay with their lives for their scandalous,
all-consuming love affair. Antony, once a wise leader, allows his emotions
to gain sway over his reason. Consequently, he makes bad decisions, including
his foolhardy decision to fight the forces of Octavius at sea. Cleopatra
likewise allows her emotions—including jealousy and anger—to rule her.
of young men of ambition. Octavius Caesar is quick to depose Lepidus
and turn against Sextus Pompeius and Antony for the prize of power. Normally,
excessive ambition is a flaw that destroys the people that it infects.
But Octavius—a well disciplined, highly intelligent, politically astute
leader—knows the secret to achieving and holding supreme authority: Control
your emotions. And he is a master at that task.Though twenty years younger
than Antony, he defeats him through the sang-froid of brutal dispassion,
logic, and aquiline predation.
selfish acts can alienate and victimize even the best of friends. Antony's
behavior ruptures his friendship with Enobarbus, his most devoted friend,
who dies of a broken heart.
the fittest survive. This is a Machiavellian, as well as a Darwinian,
law. In Antony and Cleopatra, Lepidus is unfit because he is weak,
tending to pacify his rivals and seek compromise rather than sally forth
with a closed fist. Consequently, the ambitious Octavius easily pushes
ends in disaster. To win Antony's sympathy, Cleopatra sends word to
him that she has died. Antony then falls on his sword, mortally wounding
greater the civilization, the greater its problems. Rome was the greatest
civilization of its time. But because of its size and complexity and because
of the size and complexity of the egos that controlled it, it was also
a troubled civilization.
pride leads to a downfall. Ostensibly, Cleopatra commits suicide because
she cannot endure life without Antony. However, the Queen of the Nile is
no Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) or Desdemona (Othello), heroines
motivated only by selfless love. Rather, she is a complex woman. Love for
Antony burns in her breast, to be sure, but so do other emotions. One of
them is great pride that renders her incapable of undergoing ridicule.
So, after Octavius defeats Antony, Cleopatra commits suicide rather than
allow Octavius to take her back to Rome and display her like a caged animal
or a circus freak. ..
sumptuous imagery characterizes much of the dialogue in the play. For example,
in the opening lines, Philo says that in battle Mark Antony's eyes "glow'd
like plated Mars" (a simile that alludes to the Roman god of war) and that
in hand-to-hand combat Antony "hath burst the buckles on his breast." In
one of the most memorable passages, Domitius Enobarbus, the normally plain-speaking
soldier who is Antony's best friend, describes in soaring imagery Cleopatra's
arrival at Tarsus on the Cydnus River for her first meeting with Antony.
Following is his description:
barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
passage begins with an alliteration (barge, burnish’d, Burn’d) and
a simile comparing the barge to a throne burning on the water. It then
uses personification: The winds were love-sick with them (comparison
of the winds to a person in love). The paradox in the last two lines of
the passage, saying that the fans both cool and heat Cleopatra’s cheeks,
resembles one in the opening passage of the play in which Philo says Antony
has become the bellows and the fan / To cool a gipsy’s lust (1.1.
11-12)—that is, he both heats and cools her passion.
on the water: the poop5
was beaten gold;
the sails, and so perfumed that
winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
water which they beat to follow faster,
amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
beggar'd all description: she did lie
her pavilion—cloth-of-gold of tissue—6
that Venus where we see
fancy outwork nature:7
on each side her
pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
fans, whose wind did seem
the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
what they undid did. (2.2.223-236)
Shakespeare uses another type of contrast—the brightness of fire against
the blackness of night—when Lepidus defends Antony against Octavius’s charge
that Antony is “the abstract [summary] of all faults that men follow" (1.4.11).
must not think there are
enow to darken all his goodness:
faults in him seem as the spots of heaven,
fiery by night’s blackness; hereditary,
than purchas’d; what he cannot change,
what he chooses. (1.4.13-18)
all the imagery in the play is elegant and dignified. For example, when
Enobarbus and Agrippa are discussing Cleopatra, Agrippa observes:
a soothsayer tells Charmian that she will outlive her mistress, Cleopatra,
Charmian replies, "O excellent! I love long life better than figs" (1.2.27).
made great Caesar10 lay
his sword to bed:
plough'd her, and she cropp'd.11.(2.2.261-263)
are examples of figures of speech in Antony and Cleopatra.
in our brows
laurel victory! and smooth
your feet! (1.3.121-123)
on the rudest
she sat in, like a burnish'd
on the water: the poop was beaten
legs bestrid the ocean; his rear’d arm
the world; his voice was propertied
all the tuned spheres. . . . (5.2.104-106)
cannot call her [Cleopatra's] winds and waters sighs and tears; they are
greater storms and tempests than almanacs can report. (1.2.122)
[P]rithee, how many boys and wenches must I have?
. If every of your wishes had a womb,
fertile every wish, a million. (1.2.30-31)
[T]he wife of Antony
have an army for an usher, and
neighs of horse to tell of her approach
ere she did appear; the trees by the way
have borne men; and expectation fainted,
for what it had not; nay, the dust
have ascended to the roof of heaven,
by your populous troops. (3.6.52-59)
Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch
the rang’d empire fall! (1.1.39-40)
of Rome to a meltable thing, such as ice, and the dominion of Rome to an
are clay (1.1.41)
of kingdoms to clay
[T]he fear of us
cement their divisions and bind up
petty difference. (2.1.59-61)
of fear to cement that repairs the divisions between Antony and Octavian
has a cloud in’s face. (3.2.62)
of Octavian's emotional state to a cloud
face was as the heavens, and therein stuck
sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted
little O, the earth. (5.2.100-102)
of Antony's face to a heavenly visage and his eyes to a sun and a moon
the sails, and so perfumed that
winds were love-sick with them. (2.2.225-226)
of the winds to a lovesick person
anger’d ocean foams (2.6.25)
of the ocean to angry person
[L]ike the stag, when snow the pasture sheets,
barks of trees thou browsed’st; (1.4.73-74)
compares Antony to a deer (stag).
[L]ike a doting mallard,
the fight in height, [Antony] flies after her. (3.8.40-41)
of Antony to a duck (mallard)
Cleopatra commits suicide because she cannot endure life without Antony.
However, fear of ridicule as a captive of the Romans also plays an important
role in her decision to kill herself. She especially recoils at the thought
of being put on public display in Rome, like a puppet manipulated by the
hand of a slave. In the following passage, she speaks of her fears to Iras,
one of her maids.
Iras, what think’st thou?
an Egyptian puppet, shall be shown
Rome, as well as I; mechanic slaves
greasy aprons, rules and hammers, shall
us to the view; in their thick breaths,
of gross diet, shall we be enclouded,
forc’d to drink their vapour. (5. 2. 252-258)
and Cleopatra contains forty-two scenes in far-flung settings. Some
scenes—such Scene I of Act II, in which Sextus Pompeius, Menecrates, and
Menas convene at the house of Pompeius in Messina, Italy—last only a few
minutes. Then the action shifts to another part of the world. Therefore,
staging the play can pose great difficulties for theater companies. One
way to overcome these difficulties is to have sets with props that can
be easily moved—or to rely primarily on lighting to suggest scene changes.
Questions and Essay Topics
what extent does Shakespeare embellish or alter historical accounts of
Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra?
is Antony’s most admirable quality? Which is his least admirable?
is Cleopatra’s most admirable quality? Which is her least admirable?
is Octavius’s most admirable quality? Which is his least admirable?
Octavius arranges the marriage of his sister to Antony, is he acting out
of goodwill? Or does he have an ulterior motive?
of the characters, major or minor, is the noblest and most honorable?
an essay comparing and contrasting the Egypt of Cleopatra and the Rome
of Antony and Octavius.
defeats Antony in the Battle of Actium, involving nearly one thousand ships.
Write an informative essay explaining why Octavius emerged victorious.
often use minor characters, such as the messengers and servants in Antony
and Cleopatra, to provoke, praise, advise and otherwise interact with major
characters in order to reveal the qualities of the latter. Cite several
scenes or passages in which.Shakespeare
uses minor characters in this way.
Seat or bench of an important person, such as a judge.
Minor public officials of Rome who attended chief magistrates. As a magistrate
walked, a lictor cleared a path before him. The lictor also carried an
insignia of the magistrate’s authority and carried out public executions.
rimers: Lowly, contemptible poets who would write songs about Cleopatra..
Cleopatra: Boy actor who would play the part of Cleopatra in a stage
play. (In ancient times, and in Shakespeare’s time, only males were allowed
to act on the stage. Boys with high-pitched voices took the part of female
Stern (rear) of a ship.
. . . tissue: Shelter hung with gauzy golden fabric.
. . . nature: The imagination (fancy) of the designer, or artist,
exceeds (outworks) nature's own creative abilities.
. . . cropp’d: Antony had intercourse
with her and she bore his child.
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