Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish,
A vapor sometime like a bear or lion,
A towered citadel, a pendent rock,
A forkèd mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon ’t that nod unto the world
And mock our eyes with air. Thou hast seen these signs.
They are black vesper’s pageants.
. . .
That which is now a horse, even with a thought
The rack disdains and makes it indistinct
As water is in water.
. . .
                        Here I am Antony,
Yet cannot hold this visible shape, my knave.
(Act 4, scene 14, lines 3–17)

After Cleopatra’s ships abandon Antony in battle for the second time, the general faces the greatest defeat of his military career. Antony is accustomed only to victory, and his understanding of self leaves little room for defeat, either on the battlefield or in terms of love. As a Roman, Antony has a rigid perception of himself: he must live within the narrowly defined confines of the victor and hero or not live at all. Here, he complains to his trusted attendant, Eros, about the shifting of his identity. He feels himself helplessly changing, morphing from one man to another like a cloud that turns from a dragon to a bear to a lion as it moves across the sky. He tries desperately to cling to himself—”Here I am Antony”—but laments that he “cannot hold this visible shape.” Left without military might or Cleopatra, Antony loses his sense of who he is. Rather than amend his identity to incorporate this loss, rather than become an Antony conquered, he chooses to end his life: “[t]here is left us / Ourselves to end ourselves” (4.14.25–26).