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Antony and Cleopatra

William Shakespeare

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.