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The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra
Author William Shakespeare
Type of work Play
Time and place written 1606–1607,
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
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Antony and Cleopatra!