What is the significance of the ending of the play All for Love?

The significance of the ending of the play All for Love lies in the spiritual elements it introduces into the story of Antony and Cleopatra as well as the reflections intended for the audience about suicide and the afterlife.

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In his play All for Love, John Dryden retells the story of Antony and Cleopatra with several additions and reinterpretations of his own. The play still ends as the original story does, with Antony and Cleopatra both dead by suicide, but Dryden inserts a few interesting twists that make...

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In his play All for Love, John Dryden retells the story of Antony and Cleopatra with several additions and reinterpretations of his own. The play still ends as the original story does, with Antony and Cleopatra both dead by suicide, but Dryden inserts a few interesting twists that make this version significant in its own way.

First, just before Antony dies of suicide in Cleopatra's arms, he promises her that they will meet again in the afterlife. This is a different focus for the story, for it introduces a spiritual element that other versions lack. Cleopatra also promises that she will join Antony soon. This adds to her motive for suicide, though she still commits the act in order to rob Octavius of further triumph.

Further, Cleopatra makes her suicide into a spectacle. She puts on her royal garments and sits on her throne, having Antony propped up beside her. She then proclaims herself to be Antony's wife, claiming a legitimacy in their relationship that doesn't really exist but that she desperately desires. She allows the snake to kill her and calls out that Octavius will never separate her from Antony now.

Finally, after Cleopatra dies, Serapion enters the throne room. When he sees the couple dead upon the throne, he speaks about how noble they look and hopes they will be happy in heaven. Again, this spiritual aspect is quite different from other versions of the story. Dryden places a strong emphasis on the spiritual as he reflects on the limited nature of this world and the hope for a better world to come. Yet readers may also wonder whether Antony and Cleopatra found that better world (and Dryden intends this), for both of them committed suicide, an act of self-destruction against God's law. Dryden thus introduces an aspect of complexity and meditation into the tale.

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