List of Characters
Mark Antony—Middle-aged protagonist of the play and one of the three members of the second triumvirate of Rome.
Octavius Caesar—Triumvir of Rome, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who became the sole emperor, later known as Caesar Augustus. He was about 20 years younger than Mark Antony.
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus—Third member of the second triumvirate.
Sextus Pompeius (Pompey)—Son of Pompey the Great, who was one of the three members of the first triumvirate of Rome.
Cleopatra—Queen of Egypt, close friend of Mark Antony and previously to Julius Caesar, about 13 years younger than Mark Antony.
Octavia—Sister to Octavius and wife to Mark Antony.
Friends of Mark Antony
Domitius Enobarbus—The most important of Antony’s friends.
Ventidius (Ventigius in some manuscripts)—General under Mark Antony and conqueror of Orodes, King of Parthia.
Eros—Former bondservant to Antony, made a free man on the condition that he would kill Antony if Antony requested him to do so; among the most loyal of Antony’s friends.
Scarrus (Scarus in some manuscripts)—Courageous and trusted soldier under Mark Antony; hero of the war against Octavius Caesar.
Decretas (Dercetus in some manuscripts)—Opportunistic soldier and attendant to Antony.
Demetrius—Friend of Antony who is worried about Antony’s dalliance with Cleopatra and...
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Mark Antony, also called Marcus Antonius, the majestic ruin of a great general and political leader, a triumvir of Rome. Enthralled by Cleopatra, he sometimes seems about to desert her for her real and dangerous rival, Rome. He marries Caesar’s sister Octavia for political reasons but returns to Cleopatra. His greatness is shown as much by his effect on others as by his own actions. His cynical, realistic follower Enobarbus is deeply moved by him, his soldiers adore him even in defeat, his armor-bearer remains with him to the death, and even his enemy Octavius Caesar praises him in life and is shocked into heightened eulogy when he hears of his death. Antony is capable of jealous fury and reckless indiscretion, but he bears the aura of greatness. He dies by his own hand after hearing the false report of Cleopatra’s death, but he lives long enough to see her once more and bid her farewell.
Cleopatra (klee-oh-PA-truh), the queen of Egypt. As a character, she has the complexity and inconsistency of real life. Like Antony, she is displayed much through the eyes of others. Even the hard-bitten realist Enobarbus is moved to lavish poetic splendor by her charm and beauty. Only Octavius Caesar, of all those who come in contact with her, is impervious to her charms, and the nobility of her death moves even him. She is mercurial and self-centered, and there is some...
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Antony (Character Analysis)
Historically, Mark Antony lived from 82-30 B.C. After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., Antony became part of a triumvirate—with Octavius Caesar and Aemilius Lepidus—that governed Rome for more than a dozen years. He met Cleopatra in 41 B.C., and they were lovers until their deaths in 30 B.C.
In Antony and Cleopatra, Antony is portrayed as the greatest military hero of his era. He is the last survivor of an age that reserved its highest honors for bravery and heroism on the battlefield. Antony is closely associated with Mars, the Roman god of war. He is also proud of his alleged descent from Hercules, the mythical Greek hero. He is driven to become, like them, a supreme symbol of heroic achievement. But times have changed. Rome's new heroes are those who excel in political maneuvering. Antony doesn't have the capacity to manipulate public opinion, and he doesn't know how to wage a propaganda war against Caesar. He tries to find a way to combine the values of Rome and Egypt—to be both a soldier and a lover—but he is frustrated in his search. He's humiliated by his losses at Actium and Alexandria. On the first occasion, he overcomes his shame, but the second one overwhelms him. He rages helplessly at the disparity between the glorious hero he once was and the defeats handed to him by the "boy" Caesar. In his eyes, the shame and disgrace he suffers erase all that he has accomplished up until now.
Unlike Caesar, Antony...
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Caesar (Character Analysis)
Historically, Octavius Caesar was the first emperor of Rome. He was born in 63 B.C. and died in 14 A.D. He was the nephew of Julius Caesar, who adopted him and treated him as his own son. In 27 B.C., Octavius received the honorary title Caesar Augustus; this is the name modern historians generally use when they refer to him.
In Antony and Cleopatra, Caesar is a man of destiny. He will be successful in achieving his goal: the destruction of the republic and the restoration of one-man rule. He accurately predicts the "time of universal peace" (IV.vi.4) when civil wars will come to an end and the Roman empire will flourish as never before. Caesar seems to be fortune's child. He views his consistent good luck as evidence that his cause is divinely ordained. He believes the gods have chosen him as the agent to carry out their plan. He claims that the course of action he is following will ultimately serve the best interests of Rome, and he's determined to achieve his goal.
"Single-minded" is the adjective most often used by commentators when they discuss Caesar. Political success is the only thing he's interested in. Though he's depicted in the play as a relatively young man—somewhere in his twenties—he's already a masterful politician. He shapes events and manipulates them for his own purposes. He takes advantage of other people's weaknesses, seizing on their mistakes and transforming them into opportunities to advance his cause. As a...
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Charmian (Critical Analysis)
She is Cleopatra's most trusted servant. Charmian has a forceful personality and an independent spirit. When she thinks the queen's treatment of Antony is unfair or misguided, she tells her so. Charmian is on familiar terms with her mistress and can tease her about her past life and former lovers. At I.v.66-67, Cleopatra asks Charmian whether, in her judgment, she ever loved Julius Caesar as much as she now loves Antony. Charmian responds with praise of "that brave Caesar!" (I.v.67). "Say, 'the brave Antony,'" the queen commands, but Charmian saucily replies, "the valiant Caesar!" (I.v.69). Cleopatra threatens to give her "bloody teeth" (I.v.70) if she says anything flattering about Caesar again. Charmian apologizes—though she notes that she's only repeating what Cleopatra herself used to say.
Charmian's devotion to her mistress seems deep and genuine. On one occasion, however, she unintentionally does her a grave disservice. When Cleopatra runs away from Antony's fury after the battle of Alexandria, it is Charmian who suggests that the queen lock herself in the monument and send word to Antony that she's dead. Cleopatra follows her suggestion, and Antony's suicide is the result—an outcome that apparently neither one of them anticipated.
Cleopatra entrusts Charmian with the task of arranging for delivery of the poisonous snakes, and then she prepares to die royally. Charmian stays by her, though her heart is breaking. The queen dies with a...
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Cleopatra (Character Analysis)
Historically, she became queen of Egypt in 51 B.C., at the age of eighteen. When she was twenty-one, Julius Caesar became her lover. Seven years later she met Antony, and their relationship continued until their deaths by suicide in 30 B.C. Cleopatra was a woman of remarkable poise and unusual intelligence. She was highly educated, spoke several languages, and dealt shrewdly with foreign ambassadors and heads of state. She also had a reputation as an extraordinarily sensuous woman.
In Antony and Cleopatra, Egypt's queen is portrayed as eternally fascinating. She is no longer a young woman, but her charm is ageless. Cleopatra's magnetism has little do with physical beauty. She has vitality, grace, intensity, and a radiance that excites awe. She is regal—the descendant of generations of monarchs. She is associated with divinities, particularly Isis, the Egyptian goddess of the sea. She is also the human counterpart of the river Nile, which overflows its banks each year, enriching Egyptian soil and breeding new life. She represents a kind of human richness that dazzles ordinary mortals. The source of her fascination cannot be pinned down. The range of her personality is beyond measurement—though the Romans try to do so. Cleopatra is a paragon of sexuality. Like others before him, Antony finds her irresistible. An experienced lover, she delights in erotic games. Her sexual appetite is legendary, and her love of pleasure inexhaustible.
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Enobarbus (Character Analysis)
Antony's chief aide, he deserts his leader before the battle of Alexandria and dies of shame. Enobarbus often functions as a commentator on events and on other characters. His judgments are generally detached and objective. Frequently, however, they are ironic or cynical as well. He scoffs at the great ones of the world and makes fun of the poses they assume. He recognizes Antony's weaknesses and tries to point them out. He attempts to show Antony how his love for Cleopatra has affected his reason, but Antony refuses to listen to him. Though Enobarbus is often cynical about the lovers' passion for each other, he's also sympathetic toward them. And the sensuous pleasures of Egypt have a strong pull on him as well as on his master.
This attraction is most apparent at II.ii.200-50, when he describes Cleopatra's first meeting with Antony. His onstage audience for this piece consists of two Roman officers who have heard rumors about Egypt's queen but have no first-hand knowledge themselves. One of them is enchanted; the other expresses his disapproval of what he's just heard. Interestingly, they represent the divided opinions toward Cleopatra held by generations of readers, audiences, and commentators.
Enobarbus's description of Cleopatra's river barge (II.ii.191-218) is one of the most famous passages in the play. Many critics regard it as among the foremost descriptive passages in all of Shakespeare's dramatic poetry. Enobarbus paints a...
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Lepidus (Character Analysis)
One of the triumvirs, he is known as a valiant soldier. Despite his official standing, Lepidus is essentially a weak and ineffective man. Antony and Caesar have selected him to share the triumvirate because he commands a large army. He becomes a tool in the struggle that develops between them. Commentators generally view Lepidus as a man hopelessly out of his element, trying to fulfill a role that is beyond his abilities.
When Antony returns to Rome in II.ii, Lepidus tries to reconcile the differences between Caesar and Antony. He points out that with the triumvirate under attack by Pompey, this is the time for unity, not dissension. Both in this scene and in II.iv, when the rulers are negotiating with Pompey, Lepidus has a limited part to play. While those with stronger wills dominate the conversation, Lepidus is limited to an occasional interjection. However, he becomes the focus for a while during the banquet on Pompey's galley, where he becomes drunk and passes out—but not before he becomes the butt of everyone's jokes. Hardly a man of keen intellect to begin with, his mind is now befuddled by the wine. "What manner o'thing is your crocodile?" he asks Antony (II.vii.41). The mockery in Antony's description— that it is "shaped, sir, like itself," that "it is as broad as it hath breadth," and "is just so high as it is" (II.vii.42, 42-43, 43)—passes right over Lepidus's head. Eventually Lepidus has to be carried off the ship by one of Pompey's...
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Octavia (Character Analysis)
Caesar's sister, she marries Antony for the sake of Roman unity. Octavia is selfless and submissive, a pawn in the political battle between her brother and her husband. Her marriage to Antony brings about a temporary settlement of their differences, and she and Antony establish their home in Athens. When the truce appears to be threatened, Octavia takes on the role of peacemaker and travels to Rome to speak with her brother. When she arrives there, however, she finds there is no possibility of reconciliation. She also learns that Antony is no longer in Athens but is back in Egypt with Cleopatra.
Octavia has only a few speeches in the play. What others say about her helps define what we think of her. However, these remarks frequently reveal as much about the characters who make them as they do about Octavia. Caesar's aide Agrippa describes her as full of virtues and graces (II.ii.129). Maecenas, another Roman on Caesar's staff, remarks that she is beautiful, wise, and modest (II.ii.240). Caesar himself refers to her as "the piece of virtue which is set / Betwixt us as the cement of our love" (III.ii.28-29). Enobarbus characterizes her as "holy, cold, and still" (II.vi.122-23). The messenger who brings Cleopatra word that Antony is married concocts an unflattering portrait of Octavia—in fear of his life if he does not. He describes the Roman matron as shorter than Cleopatra and "low-voiced"; the jealous queen converts this into "Dull of tongue and...
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Pompey (Character Analysis)
Sextus Pompeius, as he is formally known, is the son of Pompey the Great, who was, historically, a leading senator and one of Rome's most famous generals. Pompey the Great regarded Julius Caesar as a tyrant; he was killed by members of Caesar's political faction. In Antony and Cleopatra, Pompey carries on his father's opposition to the triumvirate. Like his father, he has been proscribed—that is, condemned as outside the law—and his financial estate has been confiscated by the government. His defiance of the triumvirs appears to be motivated by a combination of revenge for his father's death, republican idealism, and personal glory.
In the first part of the play, he represents a real threat to the triumvirs. For example, at I.ii.185, Antony says he's learned that Pompey and his ships dominate "the empire of the sea." Pompey also controls Sicily, an important source of Rome's supply of grain. At I.iv.36-40 and 48-55, messengers tell of his increasing popular support and the alliances he has made with pirates such as Menas and Menecrates.
In his initial appearance in the play, Pompey is self-assured and confident: "I shall do well; / The people love me, and the sea is mine" (II.i.8-9). When he's told that "Caesar and Lepidus / Are in the field" with a mighty army (II.i.16-17) and that Antony is returning to Rome, he becomes less boastful. He recognizes that Caesar and Antony may call an end to their quarrel in the face of his...
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Other Characters (Descriptions)
A Roman officer, he is Caesar's aide and closest confidante. He is the one who suggests that a marriage between Octavia and Antony would be the most effective way to reconcile the differences between Caesar and Antony. Commentators generally agree that the idea is Caesar's and that he has instructed Agrippa to launch the suggestion.
Agrippa and Maecenas, another aide to Caesar, make up the audience for Enobarbus's speech about Cleopatra and her barge. Maecenas disapproves of what he hears. Agrippa, however, is captivated by the picture conjured up by Enobarbus. "O rare for Antony!" and "Rare Egyptian," he blurts out (II.ii.205, 218) during Enobarbus's narrative. Agrippa is a steadfast supporter of Caesar, but he also appears to have at least some measure of sensitivity to the delights of Egypt.
Cleopatra's principal male attendant, he frequently performs services for Antony as well. Alexas appears to enjoy his superior position in Cleopatra's household. He is sometimes pompous or overbearing, and Charmian and Iras delight in making fun of his pretentious ways. After the battle of Actium, Antony sends Alexas to Herod, the king of Judea, seeking his support. However, instead of representing Antony, Alexas tries to persuade Herod to join Caesar's faction. We learn of this from Enobarbus, who comments on Alexas's treacherous behavior—after he himself...
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