Nay, but this dotage of our general’s
O’erflows the measure. Those his goodly eyes,
That o’er the files and musters of the war
Have glowed like plated Mars, now bend, now turn
The office and devotion of their view
Upon a tawny front. His captain’s heart,
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst
The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper
And is become the bellows and the fan
To cool a gypsy’s lust.
(Act 1, scene 1, lines 1–10)

Philo opens the play with these lines, which he addresses to his companion, Demetrius. Philo’s description of Antony offers us our first glimpse of the general and gives us an immediate sense of what has changed since his heroic appearance in Shakespeare’s earlier play, Julius Caesar. Apparently, Antony has declined greatly in the two years that have elapsed. Whereas he once used to be a great warrior worthy of being likened to Mars, the god of war, he’s now become a slave to his passions—reduced to serving as “the bellows and the fan / To cool a gypsy’s lust.”

He hath spoken true. The very dice obey him,
And in our sports my better cunning faints
Under his chance. If we draw lots, he speeds;
His cocks do win the battle still of mine
When it is all to naught, and his quails ever
Beat mine, inhooped, at odds. I will to Egypt.
And though I make this marriage for my peace,
I’ th’ East my pleasure lies.
(Act 2, scene 3, lines 39–46)

Antony speaks these lines after consulting with the Egyptian Soothsayer, who has accompanied him to Rome. Following negotiations with Octavius, Antony asks whose fortunes will rise higher, and the Soothsayer tells him in no uncertain terms that the future will belong to Octavius. Though dispirited by this prediction, Antony recognizes its truth. Whereas Octavius is young and zealous, Antony’s political ambitions are waning as he grows older. What this means to him, at least at this moment, is that his time as a Roman has come to an end. Hence, he will return to Egypt, where his “pleasure lies,” and though now legally married to Octavia, he will pursue a spiritual “marriage for my peace” with Cleopatra.

The miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at, but please your thoughts
In feeding them with those my former fortunes
Wherein I lived the greatest prince o’ th’ world,
The noblest, and do now not basely die,
Not cowardly put off my helmet to
My countryman—a Roman by a Roman
Valiantly vanquished. Now my spirit is going;
I can no more.
(Act 4, scene 15, lines 60–68)

These are Antony’s dying words, which he addresses to Cleopatra. Though his final speech demonstrates his love for the Egyptian queen, it also clearly indicates his wish to be remembered not by his love for her, but rather by the heroic deeds of his youth. He tells Cleopatra to “please [her] thoughts” by recalling “those my former fortunes / Wherein I lived the greatest prince o’ the’ world.” When considered carefully, these words seem somewhat insulting to Cleopatra. Although he has all but given up his Romanness in favor of seeking his pleasure in Egypt, in death he reasserts his Roman identity. His final words therefore tacitly reject the Egyptian values and traits he’d assimilated in the final period of his life.