illustration of Antony and Cleopatra facing each other with a snake wrapped around their necks

Antony and Cleopatra

by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scene 3: Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What was Cleopatra’s attitude toward Fulvia?

2. Antony says, “I am sorry to give breathing to my purpose.” What was his purpose, and what did he mean by giving “breathing” to it?

3. Why was he sorry to have to do that?

4. Cleopatra asks Charmian to “Cut my lace.” To what was she referring?

5. Why would she want her “lace” cut?

6. Cleopatra, discussing their relationship with Antony, says, “So Fulvia told me.” What did Fulvia tell her, and how?

7. What did Antony mean when he said to Cleopatra, “You’ll heat my blood”?

8. Cleopatra says to Antony, “Upon your sword/Sit laurel victory” To what was she referring?

9. Antony refers to Sextus Pompeius as “rich in his father’s honour” To what was he referring and in what manner?

10. Cleopatra asks Antony, “Where be the sacred vials thou shouldst fill/with sorrowful water?” To what was she referring?

Answers
1. Cleopatra could not have helped being jealous of Fulvia. To hide her jealously, she taunted Mark Antony about his unfaithfulness to his wife Fulvia and suggested that he would also be unfaithful to her. Her feelings of insecurity caused her to worry about Antony’s faithfulness to her.

2. Antony’s purpose was to return immediately to Rome. “Giving breathing” to it meant telling his beloved Cleopatra that he was about to leave Egypt for awhile.

3. He was unsure of how the queen would take the news, because she feigned illness to achieve her purposes.

4. Cleopatra indicated that she was about to faint and asked Charmian to cut her bodice.

5. In ancient times, the bodice acted much like a corset might do today; it restricted to some extent the wearer’s ability to breathe freely, so cutting it would allow easier breathing.

6. As far as we know, Fulvia and Cleopatra never spoke to each other. Cleopatra is suggesting that Antony will treat her as he treated his wife—by deserting her.

7. Antony meant that Cleopatra would anger him and perhaps force him to lose his temper.

8. The victor’s crown was composed of laurel branches and leaves; therefore, Cleopatra is wishing Antony the victor’s crown.

9. Sextus Pompeius’ father, Pompey the Great, once a member of the first triumvirate of Rome, rebelled against Rome and was destroyed. The comment is bitterly sarcastic.

10. It was customary in Roman times to weep for the dead, catch the tears in “lachrymatory vials,” and bury the vials with the dead body. This procedure, were it the emperor who wept, was intended as a great tribute from the emperor to the one who had died.

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Act I, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers

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Act I, Scenes 4 and 5: Questions and Answers