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The story of Anthony and Cleopatra is one that is incredibly famous in literature. Anthony sacrificed everything he had, sending the Roman Empire into complete turmoil, all for love of Cleopatra, who herself committed suicide because she was not able to contemplate life without Anthony. Dryden's play, as its title suggests, focuses on the love between these two characters, and in particular the dignity that this love gives them. Note the closing words of the play uttered by Serapion:
See how the lovers sit in state together,
As they were giving laws to half mankind!
The impression of a smile, left in her face,
Shows she died pleased with him for whom she lived,
And went to charm him in another world.
The final words state that "No lovers lived so great, or died so well." This suggests that the theme of love in this play is that true love is beyond all value and Anthony and Cleopatra have made themselves great and famous through their love for each other. The description of the two dead lovers in the above quote is not condemnatory, but rather seems to bestow them with an authority that allows them to "give laws to half mankind." The way in which Serapion says that they are "secure from human chance" suggests that they are now able to be united in their love in a way that they were never able to during their lives because of fate. The theme of this play therefore suggests that love is so valuable as to be worth whatever the price.
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