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Until Act V, Cleopatra consistently appears as a scheming courtesan who uses Antony to obtain her own ends. She tries (successfully) to dominate the Roman general in a manner that is incompatible with genuine love. Apprised that Antony has married Octavia, Cleopatra is less concerned with the loss of Antony than she is with what this says about her own wiles when compared to that of her lover's Roman wife. She pretends to commit suicide rather than face an enraged Antony, and her deception creates the precondition for Antony's own suicide. In Act V, however, Cleopatra appears to undergo a radical change, becoming the deceased Antony's transcendent lover. But there is a false note to her final words "Husband, I come." Cleopatra's transformation is theatrically orchestrated by the Egyptian queen, who decks herself out in royal garments before applying asps to her body. In this light, Cleopatra's transformation into a true lover is only skin deep; it can be seen as another role that she enacts for the sake of her own posthumous renown.

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Antony and Cleopatra

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