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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Elisa

Antony and Cleopatra

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

(More like Cleopatra and Antony...)

Setting: 40-30 BCE

Alexandria, Egypt

Tragedy


So this is the first play that reading in order of the historical chronology really affects. This play has some of the same characters as Julius Caesar. We get to see more of an arc from Octavius Caesar and Mark Antony in this one.


My really abridged plot summary: Mark Antony (the same one from Julius Caesar) is having an affair with the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. When he finds out that his wife has died, he goes back to Rome. Tensions are high between him, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus. Pompey's growing power poses a threat to their positions, and there is a division over how to handle it. Antony marries Caesar's sister, Octavia, in order to solidify their relationship. Cleopatra finds out and is jealous until she hears of Octavia's plainness and she vows to win Antony back. Political drama and betrayal are happening in Rome and Antony sends Octavia back on a peace mission while he heads back to Egypt because... well I'm sure you can fill in the blanks here. Antony and Caesar go to war and Caesar sends his fleet to Egypt. There's a pattern of Cleopatra's ships bailing on Antony during battle, and after the 3rd time he vows to kill Cleopatra for her betrayal. Cleopatra locks herself in her monument and tells one of her servants to tell Antony she has *died* herself. Antony tells his servant to *die* him, but the servant *dies* himself instead. Antony falls on his sword, but does not die immediately. He is taken to Cleopatra's monument where they are briefly reunited and he dies in her arms. Caesar takes Cleopatra prisoner and plans to take her back to Rome and use her as an example of his power. She and her ladies *die* themselves ceremoniously through sake bites, and Caesar has her buried next to Antony.


My favorite quotes:

Eternity was in our lips and in our eyes.

~Cleopatra, I.iii

In time we hate that which we often fear.

~Charmian, I.iii


Ratings:

  • Overall Impression: 8- I feel like this play is just a more mature version of Romeo and Juliet multiplied by Julius Caesar, but just falling short of both.

  • Use of Language: 7- I think the language in this play is okay. There's an interesting division between verse and prose in this play, but I've yet to determine if it holds any significance. I will keep you updated on that.

  • Protagonist Arc: 8- In this play we see an interesting division and clashing of Rome vs. Egypt, and then we have Antony in the middle here. Antony is Roman, but he loves the queen of Egypt. He is caught in between his duties and obligations to his country and his and his lover, who puts him in complicated situations. Multiple times in this play he reminisces on his "glory days" and how defeated Brutus and Cassius. He languishes that he has strayed away from the man that he once was. I think in the end, he sees death as the only way to restore himself to his former glory. Honor is everything to him, and he chooses to take his own life in order to restore himself to greatness. Of all the Shakespearean suicides, I think this is one of the less effective ones emotionally for audiences, I know that sounds horrible.

  • Female Characters: 10- Cleopatra is everything!!! She is so strong, beautiful, powerful, intelligent, passionate, regal and everything and Queen should be. She is such a dynamic and interesting character, and I'm sure she's so much fun to play onstage. Her dynamic with her ladies is so well written, and by the end, the deaths of her friends are almost as impactful as hers. There is such a strong sense of loyalty here.

  • Fits Genre: 10- There is a lot of death in this play, some of it unnecessary, but that is one of the key elements of tragedy. I don't think this tragedy is as emotional and dark as some of the others, but it is nonetheless very tragic and effective.

  • Overall Enjoyment: 9- I liked this play, and I would recommend it to people who have already read the mainstream plays. I thought there were some scenes in here that were very unique and to see some reoccurring characters was interesting.

  • Hype Worthy: 7- Again, I would compare this play to a more mature Romeo and Juliet multiplied with Julius Caesar. I would say this one is probably accurately hyped up.

  • Emotional Impact: 9- I think the final scene is incredibly effective and epic. I also kept thinking to myself "what if this is the last time they see each other".

Total: 68/80

Average: 8

*4 out of 5 stars*

 

Ok let's talk about a little detail that I picked up on in this play that I also picked up on in Julius Caesar. I think Octavia is pregnant. I mean think about it. The exchange wither her brother in III.ii is bizarre, like what is she whispering to him? In her next scene with Antony, she makes a comment about being weak (this is a common theme in Shakespeare, women being considered the weaker sex and all) but I think it has a different meaning than that. I think she is "weak" because she is with child, so I took the liberty to do some historical research. Octavia was married prior to her marriage to Antony. Her late husband, Caius Marcellus, died in 40 BCE (the same year she married Antony). Digging even further, her marriage to Antony was declared by the Senate before it could logistically take place. Now, think about why this might have been, I think it was to cover up her pregnancy. That's right, she was pregnant with her late husband's (2nd) child when she married Antony, and historically she did actually have a daughter named Claudia Marcella Minor born later that year. She had other children as well, but this is the one at question- but Shakespeare never talks about it...


Now. Portia is also Pregnant in Julius Caesar- II.i shows us a very heated and complicated interaction between Brutus and Portia. We also have a conversation about her "weak condition" in this scene, and Brutus and Portia historically have a son who died in 43 BCE (They were married in 45), so it fits the timeline historically and biologically. I think this adds a whole other level of depth to Brutus' decision to join the conspirators. He wanted to create a better Rome not just for himself or his people, but for his CHILD- but Shakespeare never talks about this either...

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