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PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

Antony and Cleopatra Characters

Antony is one of the triumvirs of Rome. The same as the Mark Antony of Julius Caesar, he is much older in this play, and ever-so-faintly past his prime.

A survivor from an age of heroes, he does not quite fit in the new world that Caesar is creating. He is a clearly a fine specimen of a man, physically imposing and powerful, though he may be going slightly to seed. Caesar is well-advised not to meet him in single combat, as he would be severely outmatched. Generous and given to overlarge gestures, Antony inspires great love and devotion in his followers. He is the greatest soldier of the age, which is why Caesar and Lepidus need his help so much against Pompey: his name alone alters the balance of power.

He is, however, almost completely under Cleopatra’s spell. Preferring to spend time with her than on official business, he refuses to hear a messenger from Rome. Discovering that his wife Fulvia has made civil war on his brother, before dying, he realizes that he can no longer stay in Egypt, and that his devotion to Cleopatra is making him risk everything, especially given Pompey’s revolt and the need the triumvirate has of him to put it down. Leaving Cleopatra, he tells her that Fulvia’s death should reassure her that he is not deserting her, but he then accepts Caesar’s offer of his sister Octavia in marriage.

He asks the Soothsayer whether he should return to Egypt, and all that he is told confirms his fears. Noticing that his luck is bad compared to Caesar’s, he resolves to leave, having married Octavia only for the sake of peace, while his pleasures are in the East. At Pompey’s feast, he mocks the credulous Lepidus with his description of the crocodile. He later rages against Caesar’s belittling behavior concerning him, and agrees to send Octavia as a mediator between them, using her absence as an opportunity to return to Egypt. There he and Cleopatra enthrone themselves as Emperor and Empress of the East, paying no attention to Rome itself. This complete rejection of Rome infuriates Caesar and gives him an excellent rallying call against Antony.

Despite the advice of his council, he insists on fighting Caesar at sea as Cleopatra recommends, and accepts to have her go to the war herself; but when she takes fright and flees, he follows. The sheer disgrace this brings on him, quite aside from the military defeat, breaks his spirit. He becomes aware of how far he has fallen, and turns on Cleopatra in a rage. He is reconciled to her, though. When Caesar refuses to accept his request to be allowed to live as a private citizen, he sends him back an insulting message calling for single combat between the two. Seeing Thidias having a private audience with Cleopatra and kissing her hand, he becomes enraged and has him whipped, cursing Cleopatra in fine style. He sends Thidias back with a message of defiance to Caesar, and rouses himself again, calling his captains to have a gaudy night with him. By bringing his followers to the point of tears, he is able to reaffirm their loyalty to him. Hearing that Enobarbus has deserted leaving all of his possessions behind, he sends them all after him. After his final defeat, he curses Cleopatra to her face as the cause of all his woes, but when she sends him the false news of her death he decides that he has lived long enough. He asks Eros to kill him, but the latter commits suicide rather than do so. Antony then attempts to kill himself, but does not manage it well, and is left slowly dying; like Eros, his guards refuses to give a fatal blow. Carried to the monument, he is lifted into it by Cleopatra and his women. He warns her to trust only Proculeius among the Romans, then begs to be remembered as he used to be and to be thought of as a Roman killed by a Roman. He then dies.

 

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