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 ambiguity in her love of Antony. It is difficult to be certain that her tragic death would have taken place had cold Octavius Caesar been susceptible to her fascination. She is most queenly in her death, which she chooses to bring about in “the high Roman fashion,” calling the dead Antony “husband” just before she applies the asp to her bosom.
Octavius Caesar (ok-TAY-vee-uhs SEE-zur), a triumvir of Rome, Antony’s great rival. His youthfulness is set off against Antony’s age, his coldness against Antony’s passion, and his prudence against Antony’s recklessness. The result, from a dramatic point of view, is heavily in Antony’s favor. Caesar’s affection for his sister Octavia is almost the only warm note in his character. His comments on the deaths of Antony and Cleopatra show unexpected generosity and magnanimity.
Domitius Enobarbus (doh-MIHSH-yuhs ee-noh-BAHR-buhs), Antony’s friend and follower, a strong individual. Although given to the disillusioned cynicism of the veteran soldier, he has a splendid poetic vein that is stimulated by Cleopatra. He knows his master well and leaves him only when Antony seems to have left himself. Miserable as a deserter, Enobarbus is moved so deeply by Antony’s generosity that he dies of grief. He serves as a keen, critical chorus for about three-fourths of the play.
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (MAHR-kuhs ee-MIHL-ee-uhs LEHP-ih-duhs), the third triumvir, a “poor third,” as Enobarbus calls him. He tries to bring together Antony and Octavius and to quell the thunderstorms that their rivalry frequently engenders. He is the butt of some teasing by Antony while they are both drinking heavily on Pompey’s galley. After the defeat of Pompey, Octavius Caesar destroys Lepidus, leaving himself and Antony to fight for control of the world.
Sextus Pompeius (SEHKS-tuhs pom-PEE-yuhs), called Pompey (POM-pee), the son of Pompey the Great. Ambitious and power-hungry, he has a vein of chivalric honor that prevents his consenting to the murder of his guests, the triumvirs, aboard his galley. He makes a peace with the triumvirs, largely because of Antony, but is later attacked and defeated by Caesar and loses not only his power but also his life.
Octavia, the sister of Octavius Caesar. A virtuous widow, fond of her brother and strangely fond of Antony after their marriage, she serves as a foil to Cleopatra. She is not necessarily as dull as Cleopatra thinks her. There is pathos in her situation, but she lacks tragic stature.
Charmian, a pert, charming girl who attends Cleopatra. Gay, witty, and risque, she rises under the stress of the death of her queen to tragic dignity. She tends Cleopatra’s body, closes the eyes, delivers a touching eulogy, and then joins her mistress in death.
Iras, another of Cleopatra’s charming attendants. Much like Charmian, but not quite so fully drawn, she dies just before Cleopatra.
Mardian, a eunuch servant of Cleopatra. He bears the false message of Cleopatra’s death to Antony, which leads Antony to kill himself.
Alexas, an attendant to Cleopatra. He jests wittily with Charmian, Iras, and the Soothsayer. After deserting Cleopatra and joining Caesar, he is hanged by Caesar’s orders.
A soothsayer, who serves two functions: He makes satirical prophecies to Charmian and Iras, which turn out to be literally true, and warns Antony against remaining near Caesar, whose fortune will always predominate. The second prophecy helps Antony to make firm his decision to leave Octavia and return to Egypt.
Seleucus (seh-LEW-kuhs), Cleopatra’s treasurer. He betrays to Caesar the information that Cleopatra is holding back the greater part of her treasure. She indulges in a public temper tantrum when he discloses this, but because the information apparently lulls Caesar into thinking that the queen is not planning suicide, perhaps Seleucus is really aiding, not betraying, her.
A clown, who brings a basket of figs to the captured queen. In the basket are concealed the poisonous asps. The clown’s language is a mixture of simple-minded philosophy and mistaken meanings.
Ventidius (vehn-TIHD-ee-uhs), one of Antony’s able subordinates. A practical soldier, he realizes that it is best to be reasonably effective but not spectacular enough to arouse the envy of his superiors. He therefore does not push his victory to the extreme.
Eros (EE-ros), Antony’s loyal bodyguard and armor-bearer. He remains with his leader to final defeat. Rather than carry out Antony’s command to deliver him a death stroke, he kills himself.
Scarus (SKAH-ruhs), one of Antony’s tough veterans. Fighting heroically against Caesar’s forces in spite of severe wounds, he rouses Antony’s admiration. In partial payment, Antony requests the queen to offer him her hand to kiss.
Canidius (ka-NIHD-ee-uhs), Antony’s lieutenant general. When Antony refuses his advice and indiscreetly chooses to fight Caesar’s forces on sea rather than on land, then consequently meets defeat, Canidius deserts to Caesar.
Dercetas (DEHR-keh-tuhs), a loyal follower of Antony. He takes the sword stained with Antony’s blood to Caesar, announces his leader’s death, and offers either to serve Caesar or to die.
Demetrius (deh-MEE-tree-uhs) and
Philo (FI-loh), followers of Antony. They open the play with comments on Antony’s “dotage” on the queen of Egypt.
Euphronius (ew-FROH-nee-uhs), Antony’s old schoolmaster. He is Antony’s emissary to Caesar asking for generous terms of surrender. Caesar refuses his requests.
Silius (SIHL-yuhs), an officer in Ventidius’ army.
Menas (MEE-nas), a pirate in the service of Pompey. He remains sober at the drinking bout on board Pompey’s galley and offers Pompey the world. He intends to cut the cable of the galley and then cut the throats of the triumvirs and their followers. Angered at Pompey’s rejection of his proposal, he joins Enobarbus in drunken revelry and withdraws his support from Pompey.
Menecrates (mehn-EHK-reh-teez) and
Varrius (VA-ree-uhs), followers of Pompey.
Maecenas (mee-SEE-nuhs), Caesar’s friend and follower. He supports Agrippa and Lepidus in arranging the alliance between Caesar and Antony.
Agrippa (eh-GRIHP-uh), Caesar’s follower. He is responsible for the proposal that Antony and Octavia be married to cement the alliance. His curiosity about Cleopatra leads to Enobarbus’ magnificent description of her on her royal barge.
Dolabella (dohl-ah-BEHL-uh), one of Caesar’s emissaries to Cleopatra. Enchanted by her, he reveals Caesar’s plan to display her in a Roman triumph. This information strengthens her resolution to take her own life.
Proculeius (proh-kew-LEE-uhs), the only one of Caesar’s followers whom Antony advises Cleopatra to trust. She withholds the trust wisely, for Proculeius is sent by Caesar to lull her into a false sense of security.
Thyreus (THI-ree-uhs), an emissary of Caesar. Antony catches him kissing Cleopatra’s hand and has him whipped and sent back to Caesar with insulting messages.
Gallus (GAL-uhs), another of Caesar’s followers. He captures Cleopatra and her maids in the monument and leaves them guarded.
Taurus (TOH-ruhs), Caesar’s lieutenant general.