Complete List of Shakespeare Plays on DVD and VHS, Including Two Versions of Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
A Study Guide
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Type of Work
Key Dates
Historical Background
Plot Summary
Elegant Imagery
Crude Imagery
Figures of Speech
Cleopatra's Fear of Ridicule
Staging the Play
Study Questions
Essay Topics
Biography of Shakespeare
Free Text With Numbered Lines
Manuscript Preparation
Study Guide Compiled by Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
Revised in 2010.©
Type of Work
.......Antony 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.
Scholars often group it as one of Shakespeare’s “Roman plays," along with Coriolanus and Julius Caesar

Key Dates
Date Written: 1606 and 1607. 
First Printing: 1623 as part of the First Folio, the first authorized collection of Shakespeare's plays


.......Shakespeare's 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]. 
.......Shakespeare 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.

.......The 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. 
.......The 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.

Protagonists: Mark Antony, Cleopatra
Antony's Antagonists: (1) Octavius Caesar, (2) Antony's Inability to Resist Cleopatra
Cleopatra's Antagonists: (1) Activities Sidetracking Antony; (2) Octavius, Fulvia, and Octavia 
Mark 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.
Cleopatra: 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.
Octavius 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.
Octavia: Octavius's sister. Antony marries her after his first wife dies.
Marcus 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.
Sextus 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.
Domitius 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.
Ventidius, Eros, Scarus, Dercetas, Demetrius, Philo: Friends of Antony.
Agrippa: Important military commander and advisor of Octavius. He suggests that Antony marry Octavia. Agrippa also masterminds Octavius's victories over Sextus Pompeius and Antony. 
Dolabella: Friend and attendant of Octavius. He is the first to notice the asp's marks on Cleopatra's lifeless body. 
Mecaenas, Thyreus, Menas: Friends of Octavius.
Menecrates, Varrius: Friends of Sextus Pompeius.
Taurus: Lieutenant-general of Caesar.
Canidius: Lieutenant-general of Antony.
Silius: Officer in Ventidius's army.
Euphronius: Ambassador from Antony to Caesar.
Alexas, Mardian the Eunuch, Seleucus, Diomedes: Cleopatra's attendants.
Charmian, Iras: Maids of honor attending Cleopatra.
Gallus, Proculeius: Men charged with carrying a message from Octavian to Cleopatra.
Marcus Octavius, Marcus Justeius, Publicola, Cælius: Strategists in Antony's army who support his plan to fight Octavius at sea.
Officers, Soldiers, Messengers, and other Attendants

Kings Antony Petitions to Fight With Him Against Octavius

Bocchus, the King of Libya
Archelaus, of Cappadocia
Philadelphos, King of Paphlagonia
Adallas, King of Thrace
Malchus, King of Arabia
King of Pont
Herod of Jewry
Mithridates, King of Comagene
Polemon, King of Mede
Amintas, King of Lycaonia

.......Shakespeare's 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.
Plot Summary
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
.......The 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 says, 
Take but good note, and you shall see in him 
The triple pillar of the world transform’d 
Into a strumpet’s fool; behold and see. (1.1.14-16) 
.......When 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, 
Now, for the love of Love and her soft hours, 
Let’s not confound the time with conference harsh: 
There’s not a minute of our lives should stretch 
Without some pleasure now. (1.1.52-55) 
.......Although 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). 
.......Quick-tempered 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. 
.......In 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. 
.......The 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. 
.......However, 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. 
.......In 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 husband. 
.......Meanwhile, 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: 
I’ the market-place, on a tribunal1 silver’d,
Cleopatra and himself in chairs of gold
Were publicly enthron’d; at the feet sat
Cæsarion, whom they call my father’s son,
And all the unlawful issue that their lust
Since then hath made between them. Unto her
He gave the  ’stablishment of Egypt; made her
Of Lower Syria, Cyprus, Lydia,
Absolute queen. (3. 6. 5-13)
.......Octavius 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.
ENOBARBUS Your ships are not well mann’d;
Your mariners are muleters, reapers, people   48
Ingross’d by swift impress; in Cæsar’s fleet 
Are those that often have gainst Pompey fought: 
Their ships are yare; yours, heavy. No disgrace 
Shall fall you for refusing him at sea,   52
Being prepar’d for land. 
ANTONY By sea, by sea.
ENOBARBUS Most worthy sir, you therein throw away
The absolute soldiership you have by land;   56
Distract your army, which doth most consist 
Of war-mark’d footmen; leave unexecuted 
Your own renowned knowledge; quite forego 
The way which promises assurance; and   60
Give up yourself merely to chance and hazard 
From firm security. 
ANTONY     I’ll fight at sea. (3.7.47-62)
.......When 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. 
.......Enraged, 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. 
.......Suspecting Cleopatra has betrayed him, Antony renounces her: 
This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me: 
My fleet hath yielded to the foe; and yonder 
They cast their caps up and carouse together 
Like friends long lost. Triple-turn’d whore! . . . (4.1.31-34) 
.......To 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 
saucy lictors2
Will catch at us, like strumpets; and scald rimers3
Ballad us out o’ tune: the quick comedians
Extemporally will stage us, and present 
Our Alexandrian revels. Antony 
Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see 
Some squeaking Cleopatra4 boy my greatness 
I’ the posture of a whore. (5.2.260-267)
.......At 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).

.......The 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.   .


.......As 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 Antony's.

Blind 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. 
Beware 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. 
Headstrong, 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. 
Only 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 him aside.
Deception 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 himself.. 
The 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.
Overweening 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. 
Elegant Imagery

.......Lofty, 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:

The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water: the poop5 was beaten gold; 
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that 
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver, 
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made 
The water which they beat to follow faster, 
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person, 
It beggar'd all description: she did lie 
In her pavilion—cloth-of-gold of tissue6
O'er-picturing that Venus where we see 
The fancy outwork nature:7 on each side her 
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids, 
With divers-colour'd8 fans, whose wind did seem 
To glow9 the delicate cheeks which they did cool, 
And what they undid did. (2.2.223-236)
.......The 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. 
.......Earlier, 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). Lepidus says, 
I must not think there are 
Evils enow to darken all his goodness:
His faults in him seem as the spots of heaven, 
More fiery by night’s blackness; hereditary, 
Rather than purchas’d; what he cannot change, 
Than what he chooses. (1.4.13-18) 
Crude Imagery

.......Not all the imagery in the play is elegant and dignified. For example, when Enobarbus and Agrippa are discussing Cleopatra, Agrippa observes:

Royal wench! 
She made great Caesar10 lay his sword to bed:
He plough'd her, and she cropp'd.11.(2.2.261-263)
And, when 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).

Figures of Speech

.......Following are examples of figures of speech in Antony and Cleopatra.


Bliss in our brows bent (1.3.47)

Upon your sword 
Sit laurel victory! and smooth success 
Be strew’d before your feet! (1.3.121-123)

The roughest berry on the rudest hedge (1.4.72)

The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold (2.2.223-224)

His fretted fortunes give him hope and fear 
Of what he has and has not.  (4.10.27-28)

His legs bestrid the ocean; his rear’d arm  
Crested the world; his voice was propertied 
As all the tuned spheres. . . . (5.2.104-106)
We cannot call her [Cleopatra's] winds and waters sighs and tears; they are greater storms and tempests than almanacs can report. (1.2.122)

CHARMIAN [P]rithee, how many boys and wenches must I have?
SOOTHSAYER .  If every of your wishes had a womb, 
And fertile every wish, a million. (1.2.30-31)

[T]he wife of Antony
Should have an army for an usher, and 
The neighs of horse to tell of her approach 
Long ere she did appear; the trees by the way 
Should have borne men; and expectation fainted,   
Longing for what it had not; nay, the dust 
Should have ascended to the roof of heaven, 
Rais’d by your populous troops. (3.6.52-59)

Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch 
Of the rang’d empire fall! (1.1.39-40)
Comparison of Rome to a meltable thing, such as ice, and the dominion of Rome to an arch

Kingdoms are clay (1.1.41)
Comparison of kingdoms to clay

[T]he fear of us
May cement their divisions and bind up 
The petty difference. (2.1.59-61)
Comparison of fear to cement that repairs the divisions between Antony and Octavian

He has a cloud in’s face. (3.2.62)
Comparison of Octavian's emotional state to a cloud

His face was as the heavens, and therein stuck  
A sun and moon, which kept their course, and lighted 
The little O, the earth. (5.2.100-102)
Comparison of Antony's face to a heavenly visage and his eyes to a sun and a moon

Purple the sails, and so perfumed that 
The winds were love-sick with them. (2.2.225-226)
Comparison of the winds to a lovesick person

The anger’d ocean foams (2.6.25)
Comparison of the ocean to angry person

     [L]ike the stag, when snow the pasture sheets, 
The barks of trees thou browsed’st; (1.4.73-74)
Octavian compares Antony to a deer (stag).

[L]ike a doting mallard,
Leaving the fight in height, [Antony] flies after her. (3.8.40-41)
Comparison of Antony to a duck (mallard)

Fear of Ridicule

.......Ostensibly, 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.

Now, Iras, what think’st thou?  
Thou, an Egyptian puppet, shall be shown  
In Rome, as well as I; mechanic slaves  
With greasy aprons, rules and hammers, shall  
Uplift us to the view; in their thick breaths,
Rank of gross diet, shall we be enclouded,  
And forc’d to drink their vapour. (5. 2. 252-258)
Staging the Play 
.......Antony 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.

Study Questions and Essay Topics

1....To what extent does Shakespeare embellish or alter historical accounts of Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra? 
2....Which is Antony’s most admirable quality? Which is his least admirable?
3....Which is Cleopatra’s most admirable quality? Which is her least admirable? 
4....Which is Octavius’s most admirable quality? Which is his least admirable?
5....When Octavius arranges the marriage of his sister to Antony, is he acting out of goodwill? Or does he have an ulterior motive? 
6....Which of the characters, major or minor, is the noblest and most honorable? 
7....Write an essay comparing and contrasting the Egypt of Cleopatra and the Rome of Antony and Octavius. 
8....Octavius defeats Antony in the Battle of Actium, involving nearly one thousand ships. Write an informative essay explaining why Octavius emerged victorious. 
9....Writers 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. 


1.....tribunal: Seat or bench of an important person, such as a judge.
2.....lictors: 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.
3.....scald rimers: Lowly, contemptible poets who would write songs about Cleopatra.. 
4.....squeaking 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 characters.)
5.....poop: Stern (rear) of a ship.
6.....pavilion . . . tissue: Shelter hung with gauzy golden fabric.
7.....where . . . nature: The imagination (fancy) of the designer, or artist,  exceeds (outworks) nature's own creative abilities.
8.....divers-colour'd: Diverse-colored, many-colored.
9.....glow: Redden.
10...Caesar: Julius Caesar.
11...Plough’d . . . cropp’d: Antony had intercourse with her and she bore his child.

Plays on DVD (or VHS) 

Play Director Actors
Antony and Cleopatra (1974) Trevor Nunn, John Schoffield Richard Johnson, Janet Suzman
Antony and Cleopatra BBC Production  Jane Lapotaire 
As You Like It (2010)  Thea Sharrock Jack Laskey, Naomi Frederick
As You Like It (1937)  Paul Czinner Henry Ainley, Felix Aylmer
The Comedy of Errors BBC Production Not Listed
Coriolanus BBC Production  Alan Howard, Irene Worth
Cymbeline Elijah Moshinsky Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Helen Mirren
Gift Box: The Comedies BBC Production Various
Gift Box: The Histories BBC Production Various