Please explain the role of friendship in Dryden's play All For Love.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Dryden's play All for Love is about the love between Antony and Cleopatra, a theme within the story is Antony's friendship with his officers and peers. An example of this is when Ventidius, one of Antony's greatest and most trusted friends, leaves his post in the Middle East and journey's to Alexandria, where Antony is in seclusion, in order to give Antony aid and assistance. This is an act of true friendship. However, Antony betrays another true friend, Dolabella, by exiling him out of fear Cleopatra might come to prefer Dolabella over himself.

Antony responds out of confusion and a sense of doom, having lost a battle at Actium, and wrongly accuses Ventidius of being a traitor. But Antony comes to his senses enough and in the nick of time to reassure Ventidius that his friendship is true and accepts Ventidius' terms of assistance that Antony not use Ventidius' volunteered twelve legions to fight for Cleopatra.

On the other side of this picture of true friendship, Cleopatra's eunuch Alexas, who is supposed to be her friend, is going behind her back to sabotage her plans and desires. Disapproving of the love between Cleopatra and Antony, Alexas tries to distract Antony's troops by encouraging a celebration then arranges a meeting between Cleopatra and Antony to distract him from his promises and plans with Ventidius.