"A Roman By A Roman Valiantly Vanquished"
Context: Twice defeated by Octavius Caesar in their struggle to gain control of the Roman Empire, Mark Antony falls on his own sword, fatally wounding himself. Before he dies, however, he is carried by his guard to the monument where Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt and his lover, has taken refuge from Caesar's forces. Although he has twice seen victory against Octavius Caesar slip from his grasp because of Cleopatra's desertion of his forces, the dying Antony still loves the Egyptian queen, as she loves him. Her attendants lift Antony to her place of refuge, that he may kiss her once more before he dies. Held in his beloved's arms, Antony bids Cleopatra neither lament nor feel sorrow at his defeat and death. He tells her to remember him as he once was, the noblest Roman and the strongest. He reminds her that he dies by his own hand, by his own choice, and not conquered by a fellow Roman.
ANTONYThe miserable change now at my endLament nor sorrow at; but please your thoughtsIn feeding them with those my former fortunesWherein I lived, the greatest prince o' th' world,The noblest; and do now not basely die,Not cowardly put off my helmet toMy countryman–a Roman by a RomanValiantly vanquished. Now my spirit is going,I can no more.
"After The High Roman Fashion"
Context: Dissension and struggle for power mark the rule of the Roman Empire by the triumvirate, Aumvirate, Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus. Antony loses influence to young Caesar when he becomes romantically entangled with Cleopatra, the betwitching queen of Egypt. When the forces of Caesar and Antony finally meet in battle, Antony is defeated. Accusing Cleopatra of double-crossing him and causing his downfall, Antony vows to kill the queen. Cleopatra dispatches word to Antony that she is dead, hoping to bring her lover to repentance. Antony, distraught, falls upon his sword and is taken to die in the arms of Cleopatra. Cleopatra faints with her dead lover in her arms, but quickly recovers and commands Charmian and her other attendants to put aside their sorrow and to prepare a noble funeral befitting the noble Roman who has died:
CLEOPATRA. . . How do you do, women?What, what, good cheer! Why how now Charmian!My noble girls! Ah women, women, lookOur lamp is spent, it's out. Good sirs, take heart.We'll bury him. And then, what's brave, what's noble,Let's do it after the high Roman fashion,And make death proud to take us. Come, away.This case of that huge spirit now is cold.Ah women, women! Come, we have no friendBut resolution, and the briefest end.[Exeunt, bearing off ANTONY'S body.]
"Age Cannot Wither Her, Nor Custom Stale Her Infinite Variety"
Context: These famous lines are frequently employed today to convey a compliment not only to or about a woman, but, with the substitution of a few words, any skill or talent. Thus, by changing the feminine pronouns to masculine, a very accurate comment is made on Shakespeare himself. In the play, Enobarbus, friend of Mark Antony and officer in his forces, describes the beauty and fascination of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. He is in Rome, where he and Antony have recently arrived from Egypt, and is talking to two fellow-officers, one of whom suggests that now Antony must desert her.
ENOBARBUSNever he will not.Age cannot wither her, nor custom staleHer infinite variety: other women cloyThe appetites they feed, but she makes hungryWhere most she satisfies. . . .
"Antony Should Conquer Antony"
Context: Battling against Octavius Caesar for the right to rule the Roman Empire, Mark Antony is twice defeated, once at the Battle of Actium and again later, near Alexandria. Antony's defeats are caused by his love for Cleopatra. Twice she deserts him in battle, leaving the scene with her forces, and twice he loses a victory because of her defection. Realizing that his love for Cleopatra has cost him victory, the empire, and even his honor, Antony vows revenge, despite his love. But when Cleopatra learns of his anger she sends him the false news of her suicide. These tidings persuade Antony that Cleopatra truly loved him, and in remorse he falls upon his sword, fatally...
(The entire section is 4,667 words.)