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Antony and Cleopatra

William Shakespeare
Main Ideas Key Facts
Main Ideas Key Facts

full title The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra

author  William Shakespeare

type of work  Play

genre  Tragedy

language  English

time and place written  1606–1607, London, England

date of first publication  Published in the First Folio of 1623

publisher  The First Folio was published by a group of printers, publishers, and booksellers: William and Isaac Jaggard, William Aspey, John Smethwick, and Edward Blount. Isaac Jaggard’s and Edward Blount’s names appear on the title page of the folio.

tone  Tragic, poetic, grandiose, decadent, stoic

setting (time)  40–30 b.c.

setting (place)  The Roman Empire and Egypt

protagonist  Mark Antony, one of the triumvirs of Rome

major conflict  Antony is torn between his duties as a Roman ruler and soldier and his desire to live in Egypt with his lover, Cleopatra. This inner conflict leads him to become embroiled in a war with Caesar, one of his fellow triumvirs.

rising action  Caesar lures Antony out of Egypt and back to Rome, and marries Antony to his sister, Octavia. Antony eventually returns to Egypt and Cleopatra, and Caesar prepares to lead an army against Antony.

climax  Antony disgraces himself by fleeing the battle of Actium to follow Cleopatra, betraying his own image of himself as a noble Roman.

falling action  Cleopatra abandons Antony during the second naval battle, leaving him to suffer an insurmountable defeat.

themes  The struggle between reason and emotion; the clash of East and West; the definition of honor

motifs  Extravagant declarations of love; public displays of affection; female sexuality

symbols  Shape-changing clouds; Cleopatra’s fleeing ships; the asps

foreshadowing  The play’s repeated mentions of snakes—for instance, Lepidus’s drunken ravings about the creatures of the Nile—foreshadow Cleopatra’s chosen means of suicide.