Analyze the symbols in Dryden's All for Love.

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There are two notable symbols in John Dryden's 1677 tragedy All for Love; or, the World Well Lost: Cleopatra's bracelet and the dark omens.

Once she realizes that her beloved Antony will leave Egypt, the heartbroken Cleopatra and her eunuch Alexas hatch a plan to keep Antony by Cleopatra's side and stop him from leaving her. The plan includes giving Antony and his commanders some jewels as gifts, including a ruby bracelet for Antony. The ruby bracelet symbolizes Cleopatra's hold of Antony's heart and mind.

Antony eagerly accepts the gifts, but he seems to have trouble fastening the bracelet around his arm, which is when Alexas tells him that Cleopatra is the only who can help him with that, cleverly prompting him to meet with her once again. Naturally, Antony agrees, and once the two meet, he sees that Cleopatra's love for him is as deep as his love for her. He learns that Cleopatra refused to join forces with Octavius (much to his joy), and he realizes that he can't leave her because he's too in love with her.

In this context, the bracelet symbolizes the unbreakable, passionate, and dangerous bond between Antony and Cleopatra. Ventidius, Antony's closest friend, sees the reality of the situation and the potential dangers of Antony and Cleopatra's love, but he also understands that no matter what he says, he won't be able to convince his friend to see reason. The two lovers simply fail to realize how their powerful and blind love is affecting them and how it might jeopardize the power of the two empires (Egypt and Rome). Thus, the bracelet also symbolizes the destructive power of love.

The dark omens mentioned at the beginning of the play by the priests Serapion and Myris are also an important symbol. In these omens, the priests say how they saw the Nile retreating and causing devastating problems for Egypt, which is why they believe that they signify the fall of Egypt. In the end, these omens become true, as Egypt does indeed fall—a catastrophic consequence of Antony and Cleopatra's strong but unreasonable love. Thus, the omens symbolize disaster and the uncertainty of life.

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