I prithee turn aside and weep for [Fulvia],
Then bid adieu to me, and say the tears
Belong to Egypt. Good now, play one scene
Of excellent dissembling, and let it look
Like perfect honor.
(Act 1, scene 3, lines 92–96)

Cleopatra addresses these words to Antony, who has recently learned that his wife, Fulvia, has died while waging war against Octavius. Having been summoned to Rome, Antony has decided to go. Cleopatra, who feels bitterly jealous, instructs him to weep in private for Fulvia’s death, then to come to say goodbye to her and pretend that his tears have been provoked by his sadness about leaving her behind. This example of “excellent dissembling,” she says, will “look / Like perfect honor.” Cleopatra’s framing of honor as a matter of a convincing performance stands in contrast to the Roman notion of honor, which is defined in terms of genuineness and authenticity.

                                     Thou must know
’Tis not my profit that does lead mine honor;
Mine honor it.
(Act 2, scene 7, lines 88–90)

Pompey addresses these lines to Menas, who is trying to convince him to authorize the assassination all three Roman triumvirs. Pompey refuses to do so, claiming that his actions as a leader are ruled by honor rather than a base desire for “profit.” Although the assassination of the triumvirs would enable him to seize control of the empire, which is his ultimate goal, Pompey insists on the primacy of conducting himself with honor. However, it’s also possible to read Pompey’s words against the grain. From a more skeptical vantage, it’s also clear that his claim about honor is a matter of political optics. Pompey admits to Menas that he isn’t against the assassination itself. His issue, rather, is that Menas has asked his permission instead of simply taking matters into his own hands. In other words, Pompey doesn’t want the assassination to stain his personal reputation. Honor, here, is thus an issue of plausible deniability.

                           If I lose mine honor,
I lose myself; better I were not yours
Than yours so branchless.
(Act 3, scene 4, lines 24–26)

Antony speaks these words to Octavia, describing why he must defy her brother, which will put her in a difficult situation. Tellingly, Antony frames his reasoning as a matter of preserving his honor. His honor is at stake here because Octavius, his fellow triumvir, has gone to war against Pompey and taken Lepidus prisoner, all without Antony’s knowledge or consent. In other words, Octavius has dishonored Antony by acting behind his back, and the only way for Antony to restore his honor is to confront Octavius. Yet Antony’s words here also carry a broader significance. He specifically links his honor to his sense of self; losing one would be tantamount to losing the other. Over the course of the play, Antony’s honor is arguably less caught up in the specific conflict with Octavius and more bound up with his feeling of in-betweenness. The more his allegiance is split between Rome and Egypt, the more he feels unrooted and “branchless.” This feeling of uprootedness leads to a crisis of identity that is linked to a perceived loss of honor.