“The World Well Lost” is an appropriate subtitle for John Dryden’s play All for Love as an ironic comment on the value of love and the catastrophic loss of political power. In the play, Marc Antony is trying to recover control after committing numerous political and military errors. Not only was he blinded by love for Cleopatra, but her actions contributed to the massive losses. He desperately wants to believe that he can command his forces while carrying on a torrid love affair, but he is forced to admit that this is not the case.
The subtitle can be interpreted in two distinct but related ways. “The world” that Antony loses is the Roman Empire. “Well lost” can mean that this political loss was worth it because love is a greater treasure than power. However, he is torn between his love for Cleopatra and that for his wife and children. His indecision seems to cost him both women’s love, and he learns too late that Cleopatra still loves him. They both die in the end. Therefore, another interpretation is that Antony lost at not just war and love, but at life. He takes his own life out of belief that his whole world, both personal and political, has collapsed.