When does Antony and Cleopatra take place?

Antony and Cleopatra takes place circa 30 BCE, on the cusp of Rome’s transformation from a republic to an empire. The Roman Republic had been established in 509 BCE. After over two hundred years of monarchy since Rome’s founding in 753 BCE, Romans moved to a democratic mode of government led by elected officials. In 60 BCE, however, the mode of role shifted with the formation of the First Triumvirate, which sought to limit power by splitting the leadership of Rome’s growing sphere of influence into three regions. Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Magnus Pompey, and Marcus Licinius Crassus were the first triumvirs of Rome. Antony and Cleopatra takes place during the Second Triumvirate, with rule shared between Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus. However, over the course of the play, Octavius will defeat his fellow triumvirs, paving the way for solitary rule over a unified Roman Empire.

What is the source of the dispute between Pompey and the Roman triumvirate?

The dispute between Pompey and the triumvirate has its roots in the recent past, which Shakespeare depicted in Julius Caesar. Essentially, a civil war emerged from a conflict that pitted Julius Caesar against his fellow triumvirs, and particularly Gnaeus Magnus Pompey. This Pompey, also known as Pompey the Great, is the father of the Pompey in the present play. Pompey the Great led the fight against Julius, and he died during the war. His sons continued the fight, but ongoing defeat forced them to retreat to Sicily. In Antony and Cleopatra, Pompey now commands a formidable army and continues to fight the battle he inherited from his father. Of course, instead of fighting Julius Caesar, Pompey takes on his nephew and adopted son, Octavius.

Why does Enobarbus abandon Antony’s service?

Enobarbus abandons Antony’s service because he believes that his leader’s judgment has been irreparably damaged by his obsession with Cleopatra. It’s clear that Enobarbus has long felt skeptical about Antony’s romance with the Egyptian queen. However, it isn’t until the disastrous Battle of Actium that Enobarbus sees clear evidence that Antony is no longer the great general he once was. With sadness and regret, he steals away and joins the ranks of Octavius. But Enobarbus soon realizes that, even in his apparently compromised state, Antony is far more honorable than Octavius. Ravaged by grief, Enobarbus appears to die from the sheer force of his regret.

Why does Antony lose the Battle of Actium?

Antony loses the Battle of Actium for a couple of reasons. His main mistake is in choosing to face Octavian in the Ionian Sea. Antony’s army is much better prepared for a fight on land. Though his advisors all insist that a sea battle will have them at a disadvantage, Antony refuses to change his mind. But the reason he refuses to alter his tactic is related to his infatuation with Cleopatra, who commits many Egyptian ships to the fight and promises to help him win the day. However, during the battle, Cleopatra’s ships flee, and Antony immediately follows suit. Essentially, Antony loses the Battle of Actium due to tactical missteps, but he makes these missteps because his love for Cleopatra profoundly impairs his judgment.

How do Antony and Cleopatra die?

Both Antony and Cleopatra die by suicide, but they do so at different times. At the end of act 4, Antony, having lost another battle with Octavius, grows furious at what he perceives to be another instance of Cleopatra’s treachery. Hoping to assuage Antony’s anger, Cleopatra sends him a message that she has killed herself. Her plan works too well, and, in his grief, Antony stabs himself. However, he doesn’t die immediately. Instead, he has his men carry to him Cleopatra, who has holed up in her monument. There, he dies in her arms. Cleopatra plans to follow Antony in death, but in act 5 Octavius sends his men to prevent her suicide—he wants to keep her alive and present her as a trophy in Rome. Aching to reunite with Antony and eager to thwart Octavius, Cleopatra dispatches secret orders to have Nile snakes known as asps brought to her. When they come, she “nurses” the asps at her breast and dies from their fatal venom.