Although Shakespeare was well acquainted with the history and literature of his day and of preceding centuries, he did not hesitate to amend the known facts of history, if it served his dramatic purposes. Antony and Cleopatra was not well received when it was first produced. Since then, Antony and Cleopatra has grown in favor with both producers and readers. Modern productions have received considerably better reviews, on the whole, than any that were published during the playwright’s lifetime.
Antony and Cleopatra is the second in a trilogy of Roman plays (the first was Julius Caesar; the third, Coriolanus); Shakespeare wrote about an era some 1700 years before his own time. His main source of historical information was Plutarch, whose biographies of great Greeks and Romans has remained a staple of literature for nearly 2,000 years and is still read today.
The famous first triumvirate of Rome—consisting of Julius Caesar, Marcus Crassus, and Pompey the Great—dissolved with the conspiracy of Brutus, Cassius and others against Julius Caesar, and resulted in his assassination. Crassus was murdered by the Parthians, and Pompey the Great was defeated in an uprising against Rome. Following the death of Julius Caesar, the second triumvirate came into being and consisted of Octavius (the adopted son and designated heir of Julius Caesar), Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The members of the...
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In this section:
- Shakespeare’s Language
- Shakespeare’s Sentences
- Shakespeare’s Words
- Shakespeare’s Wordplay
- Shakespeare’s Dramatic Verse
- Implied Stage Action
In English, or any other language, the meaning of a sentence greatly depends upon where each word is placed in that sentence. “The child hurt the mother” and “The mother hurt the child” have opposite meanings, even though the words are the same, simply because the words are arranged differently. Because word position is so integral to English, the reader will find unfamiliar word arrangements confusing, even difficult to understand. Since Shakespeare’s plays are poetic dramas, he often shifts from average word arrangements to the strikingly unusual so that the line will conform to the desired poetic rhythm. Often, too, Shakespeare employs unusual word order to afford a character his own specific style of speaking.
Today, English sentence structure follows a sequence of subject first, verb second, and an optional object third. Shakespeare, however, often places the verb before the subject, which reads, “Speaks he” rather than “He speaks.”...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Egypt. Located on the outskirts of the vast Roman Empire, the Egypt of 30 b.c.e. is portrayed as an exotic land of mystery, fecundity, extravagance, and unconventional behavior, where the Nile River rises and falls to signal the crudely designed planting and harvest seasons, and open sexual experimentation includes transvestism. Cleopatra embodies Egypt in her wildly extravagant behavior and passion. As one of Rome’s three rulers after the death of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony has been sent in a period of political instability to govern Egypt but soon wavers in his commitment to Roman values and falls in love with Cleopatra. As the scenes shift rapidly between Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria and various locations in Rome, Italy, and Greece, the shifting of place symbolizes the conflict of values in Antony’s mind. In act 1, Antony feels guilty about his un-Roman behavior and temporarily returns to Rome, where he marries Octavia to strengthen his political power, but he soon quarrels with Octavius, his fellow triumvir, and returns to Egypt in act 3. As Antony battles Octavius for political power, the scenes shift rapidly between Cleopatra’s palace and various battle scenes in the eastern part of the empire until Antony finally loses the political struggle with Octavius.
*Rome. Rome is seen in the play as the center of a highly ordered and established civilization with stately political and social...
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Act I, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers
1. Who were the triumvirs who formed the second triumvirate of Rome following the death of Julius Caesar?
2. Why did Mark Antony consider himself at least partially justified in taking an extended “vacation” in Egypt?
3. The Soothsayer in this play performs what function?
4. Mark Antony tends to hold Octavius in contempt. Why? How do we know that he holds such feelings toward Octavius?
5. Why was Octavius so anxious for Mark Antony to return to Rome?
6. Demetrius and Philo perform what extremely important function in the first scene?
7. The Soothsayer carefully absolves himself from causing or even affecting the outcome of events. Why?
8. In Scene 2, Cleopatra says of Antony, “A Roman thought had struck him.” In this context, what is a “Roman thought”?
9. Several lines later the messenger says, “The nature of bad news infects the teller.” What does he mean?
10. How does Antony learn of Fulvia’s death?
1. The three triumvirs of the second triumvirate were Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Mark Antony, and Octavius (later called Caesar).
2. In the crucial conflict at Philippi between the triumvirate and the conspiracy led by Brutus and Cassius, Mark Antony led almost all the fighting, whereas Lepidus and Octavius did relatively little for the cause.
3. The Soothsayer...
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Act I, Scene 3: Questions and Answers
1. What was Cleopatra’s attitude toward Fulvia?
2. Antony says, “I am sorry to give breathing to my purpose.” What was his purpose, and what did he mean by giving “breathing” to it?
3. Why was he sorry to have to do that?
4. Cleopatra asks Charmian to “Cut my lace.” To what was she referring?
5. Why would she want her “lace” cut?
6. Cleopatra, discussing their relationship with Antony, says, “So Fulvia told me.” What did Fulvia tell her, and how?
7. What did Antony mean when he said to Cleopatra, “You’ll heat my blood”?
8. Cleopatra says to Antony, “Upon your sword/Sit laurel victory” To what was she referring?
9. Antony refers to Sextus Pompeius as “rich in his father’s honour” To what was he referring and in what manner?
10. Cleopatra asks Antony, “Where be the sacred vials thou shouldst fill/with sorrowful water?” To what was she referring?
1. Cleopatra could not have helped being jealous of Fulvia. To hide her jealously, she taunted Mark Antony about his unfaithfulness to his wife Fulvia and suggested that he would also be unfaithful to her. Her feelings of insecurity caused her to worry about Antony’s faithfulness to her.
2. Antony’s purpose was to return immediately to Rome. “Giving breathing” to it meant telling his beloved...
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Act I, Scenes 4 and 5: Questions and Answers
1. Which of the three triumvirs was considered so weak as to be almost totally ineffective?
2. What passage in the first act is our first clue to his weakness and ineffectiveness?
3. At what point in the first act, other than the prophecy of the Soothsayer, do we find foreshadowing of the coming conflict between Mark Antony and Octavius (Caesar)?
4. Cleopatra’s feelings toward Mark Antony tend to vary throughout the play. Although she tries to convince him to receive the delegation from Octavius, she finally approves his return to Rome and strongly upbraids her companions for what she considers a derogatory comment about him. What was the comment?
5. Lepidus says, “His faults in him seem as the spots of heaven,/More fiery by night’s blackness.” About whom does he say this, and what does he mean?
6. Octavius (Caesar) says, in commenting on Antony’s sojourn in Egypt, “Let’s grant it is not/Amiss to tumble on the bed of Ptolemy.” Why would Octavius be so gracious as to comment so about one with whom he is angry?
7. Cleopatra asks Charmian for a drink of mandragora. Why would she desire such a drink?
8. Octavius says to Lepidus, “Pompey/Thrives in our idleness.” What did he mean?
9. Menecrates and Menas are called “famous pirates.” Later in the play they become relatively important characters. Who are they and in what kind...
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Act II, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers
1. Why did Mark Antony return to Rome from Egypt?
2. What reasons did he give Octavius for not returning sooner?
3. Name two major accusations Octavius brought against Antony.
4. Why was Lepidus anxious to prevent any antagonism between Octavius and Antony from developing?
5. From which character(s), other than Enobarbus, did Lepidus receive the most help in allaying the controversy between the two men?
6. For what comment was Enobarbus severely rebuked by Antony, and why?
7. Why did Agrippa want Octavia to marry Antony?
8. What was Antony’s comment about Fulvia when Octavius commented derogatorily on her actions?
9. In the opening Scene of Act II, Menas says: “Know, worthy Pompey/That what they [the great gods] do delay they do not deny.” What does Menas mean and what argument does he use to explain why the great gods act as they do?
10. Referring to Silvius, Pompey says, “He dreams.” Why does Pompey think Silvius is dreaming instead of accurately reporting the situation?
1. Octavius and Lepidus, faced with warfare against Sextus Pompeius (Pompey), thought their chances of victory would be greatly increased if Antony were there to command the troops.
2. Antony said that his presence in Rome was not really required earlier than when he actually returned, that Cleo¬patra’s...
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Act II, Scenes 3, 4, and 5: Questions and Answers
1. The Soothsayer reappears here. What advice does he give to Antony?
2. Before Ventidius enters, Antony utters a short soliloquy in which he makes two important statements. What are they?
3. In Scene 4, Lepidus says to Agrippa and Mecenas, “Trouble yourselves no further.” What, in fact, is he telling these two men?
4. In the opening lines of Scene 5, to what does Cleopatra (humorously) compare Antony?
5. What message does the messenger bring to Cleopatra?
6. Why is Cleopatra afraid to hear the message?
7. With what does Cleopatra threaten the messenger?
8. How does Charmian react to the exchange between the queen and the messenger?
9. What does Cleopatra do after the messenger has exited the stage?
10. Who was the Gorgon Cleopatra mentions near the end of Scene 5?
1. The Soothsayer urges Antony to return to Egypt and to stay away from Octavius (Caesar); he tells Antony that Octavius will win over him whenever a contest develops between them.
2. The two statements are that Ventidius must go to Parthia to fight Pacorus (to avenge the murder of Marcus Crassus, a member of the first triumvirate) and that he (Antony) intends to follow the Soothsayer’s advice and return more or less permanently to Egypt and Cleopatra.
3. Lepidus is telling them that they need not accompany...
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Act II, Scenes 6 and 7: Questions and Answers
1. Did Menas exhibit strong confidence in Pompey’s actions in accepting the triumvirate’s offer of peace?
2. In the opening line of Scene 6, Pompey says, “Your hostages I have, and so have you mine.” What are the hostages and why would Pompey and the triumvirate have them?
3. Explain why Antony, in Scene 6, tells Pompey that “Thou canst not fear us.”
4. When Menas and Enobarbus, alone on the stage after the others have exited, discuss the situation, of what do they accuse each other?
5. To whom was Octavia married before she married Mark Antony?
6. What is Enobarbus’ opinion of the marriage between Antony and Octavia?
7. Antony says to Octavius (Caesar), “They take the flow o’th’Nile/By certain scales i’th’ Pyramid.” What is he talking about?
8. Antony says, “These quicksands, Lepidus,/Keep off them, for you sink.” Of what “quicksands” is Antony warning Lepidus?
9. Near the end of Scene 6, a most unusual conversation occurs between Pompey and Enobarbus. What are they discussing?
10. What incident indicates Pompey’s desire to become the ruler of the world?
1. Menas thought Pompey was making a great mistake by acceding to the peace offer the triumvirs had made.
2. To prevent either party from gaining an advantage over the other while they are discussing...
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Act III, Scene 1: Questions and Answers
1. Why was Antony so anxious to conquer Parthia and its king, Orodes?
2. What particular function does Silius perform in this scene?
3. What did Silius want Ventidius to do?
4. Why did Ventidius refuse to do it?
5. What did Ventidius plan to do immediately after his victory?
6. What was the most pressing message Ventidius intended to send to Antony, other than informing him of the victory, and why was that message of supreme importance?
7. Ventidius says, “Caesar and Antony have ever won/More in their officer than person.” What did he mean?
8. Who was Sossius?
9. Silius says, “Thou hast, Ventidius, that/Without the which a soldier and his sword/Grants scarce distinction.” Is this a complimentary or a disparaging remark to Ventidius, and why?
10. What figure of speech does Ventidius’ use of the word “horse” in line 34 represent, and what is its meaning?
1. Antony was anxious to avenge the Parthians’ treacherous murder of Marcus Crassus, a member of the first triumvirate of Rome.
2. Silius is a “stick” who serves as a foil to allow Ventidius to explain to the audience what had transpired in Parthia and why it was important.
3. Silius wanted Ventidius to follow the fleeing Parthians, capture more territory, and win more honors for Antony.
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Act III, Scenes 2, 3, and 4: Questions and Answers
1.Who are Agrippa and Enobarbus discussing in Scene 2?
2. Why does Lepidus praise both Octavius and Antony?
3. Why does Octavius weep when Antony and Octavia leave?
4. Where are Antony and Octavia going?
5. Whom does Octavius express his distrust of?
6. What mission does Cleopatra give her messenger?
7. Why is Cleopatra concerned about Octavia?
8. In Scene 4, Why is Antony angry at Octavius?
9. Why does Octavia wish to go to Rome?
10. Why does Antony grant Octavia’s wish?
1. Enobarbus and Agrippa are discussing Lepidus.
2. Lepidus praises both Octavius and Antony because of his own dwindling status.
3. Octavius weeps out of concern for Octavia’s welfare.
4. Octavia and Antony are departing for Athens.
5. Octavius expresses his distrust of Antony.
6. He is sent to gather information on Octavia.
7. Cleopatra sees Octavia as her rival and is jealous of her.
8. Antony is angry because Octavius has taken action against Pompey without consulting him.
9. Octavia wishes to go to Rome to reconcile the differences between her brother and Antony.
10. Antony grants her wish because he fears a full-scale war is imminent.
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Act III, Scenes 5, 6, and 7: Questions and Answers
1. What is learned in Scene 5 about what happened to Lepidus?
2. Why was Octavius angry with Octavia when she returned to Rome?
3. Octavius blamed Antony for this lack of courtesy to Octavia, but was it Antony’s fault?
4. Why does Octavius tell Octavia to turn against her husband?
5. Why does Enobarbus, in Scene 7, attempt to get Cleopatra to return from Actium (in Greece) to Egypt?
6. It appears that Octavius is looking for ways to justify his defeat and capture of Antony. Why would he want to do that?
7. Why does Antony decide to fight Octavius (Caesar) at sea?
8. Camidius says, “His whole action grows/Not in the power on’t. So our leader’s led,/And we are women’s men.” What is the meaning of this statement?
9. Who is Towrus?
10. What are the “rotten planks” to which the soldier refers in line 62 of Scene 7?
1. Lepidus, having helped Octavius (Caesar) in the war against Pompey, has been imprisoned in Rome by Octavius.
2. Octavius was angry that Octavia had not come to him with a full retinue of servants and a great deal of fanfare.
3. It was Octavia’s fault, not Antony’s, that she did not have such a retinue. Antony had offered it, but Octavia had refused it.
4. Octavius told his sister Octavia that Antony had left Athens and gone to Egypt to...
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Act III, Scenes 8-11: Questions and Answers
1. What instructions did Octavius give his general, Towrus?
2. Why did he decide to so instruct Towrus?
3. What is the first indication that Antony has lost this battle?
4. Why did Antony leave his men and go in search of Cleopatra?
5. What decision does Camidius, Antony’s commander, make?
6. What instructions does Antony give after the battle is lost?
7. What sad comment does Antony make about himself?
8. Does Antony blame Cleopatra for his defeat?
9. How does she reply to his comments? Are the replies justified?
10. How does Antony react to her comments?
1. Octavius (Caesar) tells Towrus not to begin a land battle against Antony until the sea battle is finished.
2. Octavius knew that Antony had far more power on the land than on the sea; therefore, it was highly to Octavius’ advantage to fight Antony on the sea rather than on the land.
3. The first indication of Antony’s defeat comes in Scene 10, where Enobarbus says that the Egyptian admiral, with all his ships, has turned tail and fled from Octavius’ forces.
4. Antony is afraid that Cleopatra has left him permanently, and he wants to get her back. He is so upset that he deserts his own forces to follow her.
5. Canidius resolves to desert Antony and to take his soldiers and defect to Octavius...
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Act III, Scenes 12 and 13: Questions and Answers
1. Whom does Antony send as an emissary to Octavius (Caesar)? Why?
2. What response does Octavius give the emissary?
3. When Antony challenges Octavius to a sword duel to settle the matter between them, does he believe Octavius will accept the challenge? Why?
4. What is Enobarbus’ opinion of Antony’s challenge to Octavius?
5. What action does Enobarbus contemplate as a response to Antony’s challenge to Octavius?
6. Why does Antony order the servants to whip Thidias?
7. Did Thidias ask for mercy during the whipping?
8. Who was the “Caesarion” that Cleopatra mentions in her response to Antony’s charge that she is, for practical purposes, simply a whore?
9. What is Antony’s response to Cleopatra’s impassioned answer to his charge?
10. How does Enobarbus react to this response?
1. Antony sends his schoolmaster as an emissary to Octavius (Caesar), probably as a slap at Octavius, whom Antony considers to be a mere lad.
2. Octavius says he has no ears for Antony’s plea, but, if Cleopatra will kill or banish Antony, her plea will be heard.
3. Antony is not thinking clearly at this point; otherwise, he would have realized the futility of his offer. Octavius would be a fool to accept the challenge, but Antony, in his confused state of mind, probably thought there was a...
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Act IV, Scenes 1, 2, and 3: Questions and Answers
1. At the end of Scene 1, Octavius (Caesar) exclaims, “Poor Antony!” Why?
2. Two interchanges of “asides” between Enobarbus and Cleopatra occur close together in Scene 2. About what is Cleopatra worried?
3. What does Antony mean by the line, “Scant not my cups.”
4. For what does Enobarbus mildly rebuke his friend and ¬general?
5. How does Antony reply to this rebuke?
6. To what or whom does the term “my hearts” near the end of Scene 2 refer?
7. In Scene 3, what do the soldiers hear that surprises them?
8. Why were the soldiers on guard that night?
9. They attribute what they hear as an evil omen. Why?
10. Who was Hercules and why would an omen concerning him also concern Antony?
1. Octavius (Caesar) is sure that so many of Antony’s men have deserted that victory will be easy.
2. Cleopatra thinks Antony might have given up totally or might be going insane from the defeat.
3. Antony is telling his friends and servants to let the wine (and food) flow freely.
4. Enobarbus upbraids Antony for saying something that made his followers weep.
5. Antony says he did not mean his comments in that way; they were not uttered in “too dolorous a sense” and he actually had intended them for the comfort (strengthening) of his men.
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Act IV, Scenes 4, 5, and 6: Questions and Answers
1. Antony was successful in the early fighting described in this act, whereas he had failed miserably in the fighting described in Act III. Why was Antony so successful in Act IV, when he was so unsuccessful in Act III?
2. Antony says to Cleopatra, “Thou art/The armourer of my heart.” Why does he mildly and lovingly reprove the queen with that remark?
3. How does Cleopatra feel as she utters the last three lines of Scene 4?
4. What loving act does Antony perform in Scene 5 before the great battle begins?
5. How does Shakespeare’s portrayal of this act exhibit his feelings about Antony?
6. Octavius (Caesar), in Scene 6, performs an ugly act, which the playwright depicts immediately following Antony’s loving act. What did Octavius do?
7. Does this contrast oppose or reinforce the playwright’s implicit comparison of Antony and Octavius?
8. Enobarbus, in a rather tragic soliloquy in Scene 6, tells the audience what happened to Alexas. Here Shakespeare, in a rare, explicit, philosophical comment, addresses the audience and draws an important moral. What is the moral?
9. What is Enobarbus’ reaction when one of Octavius’ soldiers tells him that Antony has sent to him his “treasure” and his personal belongings?
10. How does the soldier reply to Enobarbus’ comment?
1. Antony was successful...
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Act IV, Scenes 7, 8, and 9: Questions and Answers
1. What is the meaning of Agrippa’s comment at the opening of Scene 7?
2. How does Scarrus react to the existing situation?
3. What does Scarrus mean by saying, “I’ll halt after”?
4. What did Antony mean by referring to “Hectors” at the beginning of Scene 8?
5. What does Cleopatra promise Scarrus for his bravery and valiant behavior?
6. In Scene 9, what is Enobarbus’ attitude?
7. Why did Enobarbus die?
8. Octavius’ soldiers overhear Enobarbus’ soliloquy just before his death. What is their reaction to what he is saying?
9. What does the sentry mean by saying, “He is of note”?
10. What was the soldiers’ attitude toward Enobarbus?
1. Agrippa realizes that the forces of Octavius (Caesar) have suffered a decisive defeat, and he orders a retreat. He realizes Octavius and his army are in a bad spot and have a great deal to do to recover from the defeat.
2. Although seriously wounded, Scarrus is jubilant and is willing to receive far more wounds the next day in completing Antony’s victory.
3. Scarrus realizes that he cannot keep up with Antony and the others as they go toward Cleopatra’s palace, but he says that he will limp along.
4. Hector, son of Priam, king of Troy fought valiantly for Troy until he was defeated by the Greek warrior...
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Act IV, Scenes 10, 11, and 12: Questions and Answers
1. The later fighting in Act IV was disastrous to Antony for two highly important reasons. What were they?
2. In Scene 10, what does Antony mean when he says, “I would they’d fight i’th’fire or i’th’air”?
3. At the beginning of Scene 12, Scarrus says, “Swallows have built/In Cleopatra’s sails their nests.” What does he mean?
4. What is the meaning of Scarrus’ comment about the “augurers”?
5. Antony, seeing Cleopatra’s ships once again give up the fight, but this time defect to Octavius (Caesar), calls Cleopatra a “Triple-turned whore.” To what is he referring?
6. Antony tells Scarrus to “Bid them all fly.” What is Scarrus being instructed to do?
7. What does Antony threaten to do to Cleopatra?
8. Antony’s reference to his wife Octavia in line 38 of Scene 12 implies a comparison between Octavia and Cleopatra. How does Antony compare the two women?
9. Who is the “young Roman boy” Antony mentions in his soliloquy at the end of Scene 12?
10. What is Antony’s general attitude during Scene 12?
1. Antony knew little about sea battles, and Cleopatra’s fleet, on which he had counted heavily, defected to Octavius’ side.
2. In ancient Rome, educated people believed that everything was composed of some mixture of only four elements: earth, air, fire,...
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Act IV, Scenes 13 and 14: Questions and Answers
1. What advice does Charmian give Cleopatra after Antony has threatened to kill the queen?
2. What is Cleopatra’s reaction to Antony’s threat?
3. Why does Cleopatra retire to her monument (tomb)? What does this action indicate about her character?
4. Who brings the news of Cleopatra’s “death” to Antony?
5. What is Antony’s reply to the emissary?
6. What is the essence of Antony’s soliloquy after Eros has left the stage temporarily?
7. Why does Mark Antony decide to die at that particular time?
8. How does Eros avoid the bitterly unpleasant task of killing his beloved Mark Antony when he had promised years before to do so if Antony asked him?
9. What is Antony’s reaction to what Eros did?
10. What does Decretas do after Antony attempts suicide?
1. Charmian suggests that Cleopatra flee to her monument (which contains her tomb) and send a message to Antony that she has committed suicide.
2. Cleopatra thinks that Antony has gone insane.
3. Cleopatra retires to her monument for safety; Antony had threatened to kill her because her navy had defected to Octavius. Here her fear is to some extent realistic, but her attempt to learn how Antony would react to her “death” is, at best, immature. She should have known, before she sent Mardian to him, that her scheme...
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Act IV, Scene 15: Questions and Answers
1. Why does Cleopatra refuse to come down from her monument to kiss the dying Antony one last time? Is this an indication of her character or of her true feelings about Antony?
2. What does Cleopatra do instead of emerging from her monument?
3. Cleopatra says, “If knife, drugs, serpents, have/Edge, sting, or operation, I am safe.” What does she mean?
4. Cleopatra says, a few lines later, “Had I great Juno’s power,/The strong-winged Mercury should fetch thee up/And set thee by Jove’s side.” About whom is she talking?
5. Whom does Antony, before he dies, tell the queen to trust?
6. What advice does he give the queen at that time?
7. Why does Iras say, “She’s dead too, our sovereign”?
8. At the end of the act, Cleopatra asks, “Then is it sin/To rush into the secret house of death/Ere death dare come to us?” About what is the queen speaking?
9. What does Cleopatra’s question indicate about Egyptian philosophy prevalent in Cleopatra’s time?
10. What does Cleopatra promise the dead Antony?
1. Cleopatra refuses to leave the monument because she is afraid she’ll be killed or taken prisoner if she leaves that place of relative safety. In this instance, her head probably is ruling her heart. Cleopatra’s extensive physical effort (and that of her two attendants) to raise Antony to...
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Act V, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers
1. What, if any, was the international significance of Antony’s death?
2. Why was Octavius (Caesar) anxious to prevent Cleopatra’s death?
3. What did Dolabella do for Cleopatra that no other of Octavius’ officers or soldiers did for her?
4. What was Octavius’ approach to Cleopatra after he learned that Antony was dead? Does this approach shed any light on his character, which Shakespeare developed throughout the play? If so, what?
5. What was Cleopatra’s reaction to Octavius and his emissaries?
6. Did Octavius intend to kill Cleopatra later?
7. What was the threat Procleius made to Cleopatra to disuade her from committing suicide?
8. Why did Octavius, upon learning of Cleopatra’s death, order a huge funeral for her and Antony?
9. Did Octavius make any move to physically harm Cleopatra or her attendants after he learned of Antony’s death?
10. What did Octavius intend to do after the funeral for Antony and Cleopatra?
1. Octavius (Caesar) was then the sole ruler of the civilized world surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. He became known as Caesar Augustus.
2. Octavius wanted to prevent Cleopatra’s death because he intended to take her to Rome and parade her as a prize of war.
3. Dolabella warned Cleopatra that Octavius intended to take her to Rome as a prize of war...
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Language and Imagery
Antony and Cleopatra is distinguished among Shakespeare's plays for its lush, evocative language. Some critics have even suggested that it should be classified with Shakespeare's long poems rather than ranked alongside his plays. Scholarly discussion has focused on Enobarbus's vividly detailed depiction of Cleopatra on her barge and on the lovers' continual use of hyperbole, or exaggerated language, to describe each other as well as their affection for one another.
Some critics have argued that the hyperbolic language in Antony and Cleopatra makes it a highly problematical play to stage. What actor, for example, is so physically fit that he can portray a character like Antony, whose "legs bestrid the ocean" and whose "rear'd arm / Crested the world"? What actress is charismatic enough to play Cleopatra, who is described as more seductive than Venus, the goddess of love? Odier critics have observed that Shakespeare was well aware of this conflict between language and reality and that he makes this clear in Act V when the defeated Cleopatra imagines that plays written in Rome about the former lovers will feature Antony as a drunk and herself as a "whore" played— as was the custom in Renaissance England— by a "squeaking . . . boy."
Scholars have in fact identified a variety of reasons for the existence of heightened language and vivid imagery in Antony and Cleopatra. Some have demonstrated...
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Antony and Cleopatra depicts the conflict between Roman and Egyptian values. The play does not present one as superior to the other. It does, however, seem to demonstrate that in order to achieve worldly success, one must be cautious, self-disciplined, and rational. And choosing this course means turning one's back on spontaneity, joy, and laughter. Antony cannot find a way to combine these two ways of living. Is such a compromise possible? Or must each of us choose between professional achievement and personal happiness? Is it possible to "have it all"?
Commentators repeatedly point out that there are no answers to many of the questions raised by the play. The quality of Antony's love for Cleopatra, the essence of her eternal fascination, and Caesar's motivations remain uncertain and debatable. No single interpretation of Antony and Cleopatra is possible. On the one hand, this is frustrating. But on the other, it mirrors the complexity of human experience. Perhaps the play suggests that trying to judge Antony's love or Cleopatra's sincerity is just as risky as attempting to define or categorize human beings.
Similarly, the ambiguous presentation of the central characters in Antony and Cleopatra may be a reflection of the contradictions inherent in all of us. The combination of comic and tragic perspectives in the play troubles many readers and commentators. Antony's love for Cleopatra sometimes seems...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: William Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Bloom’s concise anthology of major Shakespeare criticism of the 1970’s and 1980’s judiciously samples postmodernist, new historicist, feminist, and deconstructionist discussions of Antony and Cleopatra. See especially the essays by Jonathan Dollimore, Linda Bamber, and Laura Quinney.
Charney, Maurice. Shakespeare’s Roman Plays. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961. Chapter 3, the centerpiece of Charney’s influential book, brilliantly analyzes the imagery of Antony and Cleopatra; Charney gives particular attention to the imagery that clusters around the Egypt-Rome polarity, thereby constituting it as a complex central theme.
Granville-Barker, Harley. Prefaces to Shakespeare. Vol. 1. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1946. Granville-Barker’s prefaces remain timeless monuments to a golden age of Shakespearean scholarship and theatrical performance. The preface to Antony and Cleopatra offers valuable insights into staging and characterization from the perspective of an influential stage director and critic.
Riemer, A. P. A Reading of Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.” Sydney, Australia: Sydney University...
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Andrews, John F., ed. William Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra. London, J. M. Dent, 1993.
Baldwin, T. W. Shakespeare’s Five–Act Structure. Urbana (IL), University of Illinois Press, 1963.
Charney, Maurice. How to Read Shakespeare. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1971.
Charney, Maurice. Shakespeare's Roman Plays: The Function of Imagery in
the Drama. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963.
––––– Shakespeare’s Roman Plays. Cambridge (MA), Harvard
University Press, 1963.
Clough, Arthur Hugh, ed. Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. tr. John Dryden. New York, Modern Library [Random House],  (Reprint of eighteenth–century edition.)
Evans, G. Blakemore. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1974.
Everett, Barbara, ed. The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra. New York, New American Library [The Signet Classic Shakespeare], 1963.
Haliday, F. E. A Shakespeare Companion, 1564–1964. New York, Schocken Books, 1964
Nicoll, Allardyce, ed. Shakespeare Survey, Vol. 10. Cambridge
(England), [Cambridge] University Press, 1957.
Ornstein, Robert. "Love and Art in Antony and Cleopatra", in Dean, Leonard F., ed. Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism....
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