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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Take but good note, and you shall see in him
The triple pillar of the world transform'd
Into a strumpet's fool. (I, i)

One of the plays opening quotes, Philo tells his comrades to observe that Antony, one of Rome's rulers, has been reduced to a "fool" -- at the beck and call of Cleopatra. The quote establishes one of the basic thematic threads of the play, that of a clash between the east and west.

Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her (II, ii)

One of the play's most recognizable quotes, Enobarbus expresses the cunning and treachery of Cleopatra. He says most women overindulge and fully satisfy their men, whereas Cleopatra always leaves her men wanting more, and uses this as means to her ends.

I will to Egypt;
And though I make this marriage for my peace,
I' th' East my pleasure lies. (II, iii)

Although Antony is portrayed by Shakespeare as a mostly honorable figure, he is capable of disingenuity and wile. He agress to marry Octavia, though it is out of political concerns and not genuine commitment. He admits that his passion is for Cleopatra, "I' th' East".

O sun, thy uprise shall I see no more!
Fortune and Antony part here (IV, xii)

His defeat imminent, Antony laments the loss. His words ring with the one of the themes of the play, a common one in Shakespeare's works: Fortune. In this case, Fortune dictates that the Roman empire and Western civilization will prevail, thus Ceasar's defeat of Antony and Cleopatra is, so to speak, written in the stars.

Here I am Antony;
Yet cannot hold this visible shape, my knave.
I made these wars for Egypt; and the Queen -
Whose heart I thought I had, for she had mine (IV, xiv)

The theme of honor figures prominently in the play, and Antony as one of its exponents. Antony believes that if he should lose his honor, he shall, in a sense, cease being Antony. He now recongizes that he has been defeated, both by Caesar and by Cleopatra's cunning. He feels his personal identity defeated.

The death of Antony
Is not a single doom; in the name lay
A moiety of the world. (V, i)

Spoken by Ceasar in the play's final act, they express one of the dominant themes in the play, that being the sheer scope and magnitude of the events and the characters. Antony's death shakes the entire world stage, and it represents Ceasar's triumph and the victory of Western civilization.

My desolation does begin to make
A better life.
'Tis paltry to be Caesar:
Not being Fortune, he's but Fortune's knave,
A minister of her will (V, ii)

Cleopatra consoles herself after defeat with the thought that it is not Caesar but Fortune that is the victor. This quote again illustrates the theme of Fortune and how man is at its whim.

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Quotes in Context