Plays Directory : Antony and Cleopatra

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  • Author
    William Shakespeare
  • Overview
    Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra's suicide. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony's fellow triumviri and the future first emperor of Rome. The tragedy is a Roman play characterized by swift, panoramic shifts in geographical locations and in registers, alternating between sensual, imaginative Alexandria and the more pragmatic, austere Rome.

    Act 1:
    Antony, in love with Cleopatra and living with her in Egypt, is called back to Rome to fight with Caesar against Pompey. Cleopatra doesn't want him to go, and Antony is torn between love and duty. He also learns that his wive, Fulvia, has died. Cleopatra is jealous of Antony's sense of duty, and distraught that he has decided to go. In Rome, Caesar criticises what he sees as Antony's idleness and self-indulgence in Egypt.

    Act 2:
    Caesar and Antony meet to settle their differences, and Antony agrees to marry Caesar's sister Octavia. A soothsayer tells Antony he is better off in Egypt, away from Caesar. A messenger tells Cleopatra that Antony has remarried: she is outraged. Antony and Caesar attend a banquet on board Pompey's ship during an uneasy period of truce.

    Act 3:
    Cleopatra tries to console herself by imagining Octavia to be old and ugly. Caesar and Pompey are at war again. Antony has returned to Egypt and been publicly crowned with Cleopatra; he has also given Cleopatra Roman kingdoms, which makes Caesar uneasy. Antony and Cleopatra fight Caesar at sea: Cleopatra retreats, and Antony retreats after her, to his shame. Antony and Cleopatra send messages to Caesar, begging for leniency. Caesar replies that he will let Cleopatra continue to rule Egypt if she either sends Antony away or kills him. Antony wants to fight Caesar, but Cleopatra prefers to submit.

    Act 4:
    Antony's followers think he has lost his senses in wanting to fight Caesar. Antony wins the first battle, but loses heart next day, wrongly thinking that Cleopatra has betrayed him. Cleopatra sends a message that she is dead, hoping to bring Antony back to her. Antony wants to die too, and falls on his sword, injuring himself, then learns that Cleopatra is still alive. Antony is carried to Cleopatra, and dies.

    Act 5:
    Caesar learns that Antony is dead. Cleopatra pretends obedience to Caesar, who wants to take her to Rome. A clown comes to Cleopatra with a basket of figs containing a snake. Cleopatra dresses in her robe and crown, puts the asp to her breast and dies. Caesar orders that she be buried next to Antony: after the funeral he will return to Rome.
  • Play
    Download the text for free from Project Gutenberg here: Antony and Cleopatra

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Alternative Names

Anthony and Cleopatra, Anthony & Cleopatra, Antony & Cleopatra