O, Charmian,
Where think’st thou he is now? Stands he, or sits he?
Or does he walk? Or is he on his horse?
O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony!
Do bravely, horse, for wot’st thou whom thou mov’st?
The demi-Atlas of this Earth, the arm
And burgonet of men. He’s speaking now,
Or murmuring “Where’s my serpent of old Nile?”
For so he calls me. Now I feed myself
With most delicious poison.
(Act 1, scene 5, lines 22–32)

Cleopatra speaks these words to Charmian and her maids. Her obsession with Antony is palpable here, and her reference to him as a demigod (“demi-Atlas”) speaks to her respect for him. She will echo this perspective on him in the play’s final act, where she celebrates him as a larger-than-life colossus: “His legs bestrid the ocean, his reared arm / Crested the world” (5.2.102–103). Cleopatra’s admiring view of Antony stands in stark contrast to the Roman perspective, which views him in precisely the opposite terms. Whereas he once was a hero of epic proportions, his infatuation with Cleopatra has since emasculated him. If Cleopatra is seen from the beginning as the cause of Antony’s inevitable downfall, so too will Antony be the cause of hers: “my oblivion is a very Antony” (1.3.109).

                            Ah, dear, if I be so,
From my cold heart let heaven engender hail
And poison it in the source, and the first stone
Drop in my neck; as it determines, so
Dissolve my life! The next Caesarion smite,
Till by degrees the memory of my womb,
Together with my brave Egyptians all,
By the discandying of this pelleted storm
Lie graveless till the flies and gnats of Nile
Have buried them for prey!
(Act 3, scene 13, lines 195–204)

At this point in the play, Cleopatra has contributed to the loss of a significant battle by sailing away from the fight and luring Antony away as well. This event has caused great strife between the lovers, but they have made up. In this passage, Cleopatra renews her allegiance to Antony with a moving oath where she commits all her resources to his cause, no matter the cost. Should she fall short of her pledge, she says, then all of Egypt may fall. This passage is significant for the way it showcases Cleopatra’s capacity for eloquence as well as her penchant for dramatic performance. Antony already knows that she is mercurial with her actions, so he has no good reason to believe her words. However, the emotional force of her words convinces him of her authenticity, which elicits an oath of his own in response.

                            Methinks I hear
Antony call. I see him rouse himself
To praise my noble act. I hear him mock
The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men
To excuse their after wrath.—Husband, I come!
(Act 5, scene 2, lines 338–42)

As Cleopatra approaches the moment of her suicide, she indicates that her death, while reuniting her with Antony, will also ensure her final defeat of Octavius. By choosing death and refusing to become the Roman emperor’s trophy, she asserts that “the luck of Caesar” was but a ruse. She references how, in many myths and legends, the gods may grant a human good fortune only to take it away again in what she calls “their after wrath.” Octavius may think he’s won her, but she will cause his fortunes to reverse. In this way, Cleopatra affirms her earlier assertion about Octavius: “’Tis paltry to be Caesar; / Not being Fortune, he’s but Fortune’s knave” (5.2.2–3).