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The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra


by William Shakespeare

Cleopatra Timeline and Summary

  • 1.1.13: Cleopatra starts the play by asking Antony to tell her how much he loves her.
  • 1.1.19: Cleopatra tells Antony to hear the messenger from Rome, teasing that it’s likely a note from his dominating wife, Fulvia, or his dominating partner, Caesar. She plays on his lack of political power, but also his powerlessness under her love.
  • 1.1.40: Cleopatra asks why Antony married Fulvia, if he didn’t love her, and reveals one of the central problems with Antony’s love for her: if he can’t be faithful to his wife (any wife, for that matter) then why should she believe he’ll love her faithfully?
  • 1.2.81: Cleopatra announces that Antony has had "a Roman thought" and forgot about having fun with her. She shows how fickle she is: at first, she’s looking for him, and then, upon realizing that he’s come, she leaves. She has a fickle temperament and likes to play hard-to-get. Her tactic is clearly working on Antony.
  • 1.3.9: Cleopatra scolds Charmian for suggesting she should actually treat the man she loves well. Cleopatra insists that treating a man well is the best way to lose him, as witnessed by poor Fulvia and women all over the world.
  • 1.3.20: Cleopatra flips out at Antony when he suggests he should probably go home to his actual wife and the country he left that’s falling apart. She cries that he’s betraying her. She wails some more, but finally reacts seriously when she hears that Fulvia has died. On seeing that Antony is totally unfazed by the whole dead-wife situation, she’s in tears again, accusing Antony of being without feeling. She suggests that he should shed tears for Fulvia and pretend they’re for Cleopatra, because apparently he’s that much of a scoundrel.
  • 1.3.87: Cleopatra goes on and on until she runs out of words.
  • 1.3.93: After all her wailing, she puts on a "well, do whatever you want" attitude and tells him to go in spite of her deep sadness. She wishes him luck.
  • 1.5.10: Cleopatra idly questions her eunuch about whether he is attracted to women.
  • 1.5.19: Then Cleopatra swoons for a while. She wonders what Antony is doing, praises the horse he rides, and laments that once she rode great men like Caesar and Pompey to power.
  • 1.5.53: Upon receiving a pearl from Antony, Cleopatra asks for news of how he looked. She praises him for his moderation, being neither sad nor merry.
  • 1.5.63: Cleopatra decides to write to Antony. She asks Charmian whether she ever loved Caesar as much as she loves Antony. Charmian responds “actually… yeah." Furious, Cleopatra replies by promising to punch her in her mouth. Then Cleopatra argues she was young in those days, and stupid, but that this love is the real deal.
  • 2.5.18: Cleopatra is messing around at the palace, playing pool and reminiscing about fishing. She thinks of Antony as a fish to catch. She tells a story about how she once dressed Antony up in her clothes. She wore his sword.
  • 2.5.26: She’s interrupted by a messenger with news from Antony. She looks at his face and can see something’s wrong. She says if the messenger brings word of Antony’s death, she’ll die, but if Antony is well and free, she’ll shower the messenger with gold. She continues to interrupt the messenger, and is satisfied hearing Antony is well, but says she doesn’t like that she can tell that more is coming.
  • 2.5.62: Upon hearing that Antony has married Octavia, she threatens to cut out the messenger’s eyes, beats him soundly, and generally act like a tyrant. He doesn’t get the hint to leave until she pulls out a knife, at which point he takes off.
  • 2.5.82: Cleopatra admits that she shouldn’t have treated the messenger badly and calls him back. Then, upon his return, she promptly cusses him out again. Finally, she asks Charmian to tell the messenger to bring her word of whether Octavia is more attractive than she is. She admits Antony is awful and wonderful all at once, and goes to bed in a fit.
  • 3.3.34: Cleopatra spends the first 34 lines of the scene grilling the messenger about every possible feature of Octavia—her hair, the way she walks, her forehead, her age, and more—until she’s finally satisfied that Octavia isn't as attractive as she is. She then declares that Antony has obviously seen some majesty (in Cleopatra) and he should know better than to go running around with girls that are not good-looking. Anyway, Cleopatra seems sure Antony will be back, so she’ll write to him.
  • 3.7.1: Cleopatra and Enobarbus argue back and forth about why Cleopatra shouldn’t be part of the war with Antony. When she hears that the word on the street in Rome is that her maids and a eunuch are running this war, she says all of Rome can go to hell (in so many words). As she has some part to play in the war, she’ll be like the men and show up for the battle. End of discussion.
  • 3.7.49: Cleopatra promises 60 ships to Antony.
  • 3.11.28: Cleopatra flails around after entering the room in a tizzy. She’s just run away from the naval battle, and Antony has followed her. She knows she’s lost the battle for them and will probably be busted by Antony. Antony confronts her, asking if she knew that she was the master of his heart, and that he’d follow her. She contends she didn’t know he would follow, and asks him to forgive her for her "fearful sails." She begs pardon again and generally seems to be a wreck.
  • 3.13.1: She asks Enobarbus what she should do, and whether this was her fault. She doesn’t like his answer that Antony’s cowardice is to blame.
  • 3.13.60: A messenger from Caesar enters and suggests that she doesn’t love Antony, but fears him. The messenger claims this is why Caesar won’t blame her for her role in trying to kill him.
  • 3.13.60: Cleopatra says Caesar is "a god, and knows what is most right." Then she contends she didn’t yield her honor, but that she was conquered by Antony. Worse, once she gets going, she tells the messenger to tell Caesar that she’ll kiss his conquering hand, and kneel at his feet so she can hear his judgment of her. As the messenger goes to kiss her hand, she muses that this is the same hand that Octavius Caesar’s adopted father, Julius Caesar, kissed so often, seeming to reminisce and delight in her own power.
  • 3.13.152: Antony flies into a rage upon seeing Cleopatra flirt with the messenger. She pipes up occasionally, but the kicker is when she asks if he’s done yet. She has some audacity, and plays him until he asks her whether she’s cold-hearted toward him. Seeing her coolness has piqued his interest, she launches into a cry that if she has cooled toward him, then her heart can make a hail storm in her chest and choke her, and her children die, and her womb and all of Egypt get eaten by flies. So, no, she hasn’t cooled toward him.
  • 3.13.177: Hearing that, Antony forgives her and goes back to warmongering. She praises him for his good spirits. Also, it’s her birthday! First, Cleopatra thought it would be a sad birthday, but instead it’s happy, because Antony said they’ll all drink so much that the wine will bleed through the scars of the wounded.
  • 4.2.12: Cleopatra asks Enobarbus in an aside what Caesar could possibly mean by seeming so sad with his men as they prepare for battle.
  • 4.4.2: Antony goes off to fight the battle, and Cleopatra suggests he comes back to bed instead. Then she insists that she help him get dressed in his armor, even though she doesn’t know where anything goes. After he bids her farewell, she praises his bravery and showmanship. She wishes this could be his deciding fight with Caesar, though she knows it won’t be.
  • 4.8.17: Cleopatra praises Antony as a lord of lords, and is grateful that he’s returned to her safely. She promises to give Scarus some armor of gold that once belonged to a king, in return for his good service.
  • 4.12.31: Cleopatra enters (after Antony loses the second battle because his men defect) and asks him why he’s so "enraged against his love," meaning, of course, against her. When he tells her he wishes for Caesar to march her through the streets and Octavia to pluck out her eyes, she takes the hint and runs away.
  • 4.13.7: Cleopatra runs back to her palace and cries to her women to help her, as Antony is enraged. She takes Charmian’s advice to pretend she’s dead. She instructs Mardian to tell Antony that she’s killed herself, and that Antony's name was her final word. She instructs that the final word should sound especially pitiful, for dramatic effect. Also, she wants a full report on how he takes her death.
  • 4.15.1: Cleopatra vows she’ll never leave the monument, and that she’ll never have comforts again.
  • 4.15.16: Cleopatra cries out on finding Antony mortally wounded. She agrees with him that he should’ve died by no hand but his own, though she’s sad that he’s dying.
  • 4.15.22: Antony asks Cleopatra to come to him, but she’s too scared to come down out of the monument, lest Caesar should catch her. She hints that she’ll kill herself, too, and that Octavia ("your wife" she calls her, for special emphasis) will have no pleasure by looking down on her, Cleopatra, a conquered queen. She asks her women to help draw Antony to her (where she sits comfortably) instead of going to him (where he lays dying).
  • 4.15.33: Cleopatra notes how heavy Antony has become, where he was strong before. She wishes that her kisses could give life, as she’d then kiss him until she was worn out. She tries this anyway.
  • 4.15.42: Antony, who is dying, is trying to get a word in edgewise, and she keeps cutting him off. She promises to rail against Fortune.
  • 4.15.47: Antony finally tells her to go to Caesar to seek her safety and honor. She tells him she can’t have both honor and safety from Caesar. She then claims, against Antony’s wishes, that she’ll never trust anyone involved with Caesar. She can only trust her resolution and her hands (yet another suicide reference).
  • 4.15.59: As Antony dies, Cleopatra asks whether he doesn’t care for her, because he’s leaving her in the world without him. She laments the state of the world, as it’s now pathetic and miserable since Antony is gone.
  • 4.15.72: She says now that Antony’s dead, she’s commanded by passion, which makes her more like a milkmaid or servant girl than a powerful queen. She would curse the gods for taking the jewel of the world, but Cleopatra resolves herself to death instead. It is no sin, she claims, to rush to death instead of waiting for it to come to her. She tells her girls to be brave, and bids that Antony be buried in the Roman style, calling it "noble." She ends by saying their only friend is their resolution "and briefest end." It seems she now has the coolness of a man of action, though her action is inspired by her passion.
  • 5.2.1: Cleopatra curses Caesar. She claims he’s a fool of Fortune, and that suicide will be great because it will release her from the shackles of all the earthly things that keep everyone else alive.
  • 5.2.17: Cleopatra receives Caesar’s messenger, Proculeius. She tells him she’d like her kingdom back, as it’s actually hers. This act will make her kneel to him with thanks.
  • 5.2.28: Hearing he’ll be merciful, she says she commends him for his greatness, and is hourly learning "a doctrine of obedience," presumably one that cools her temper.
  • 5.2.38: Cleopatra, realizing Caesar’s guards are hanging about, tries to take her own life with a dagger. Proculeius stops her before she accomplishes anything. She begs death to come to her, but to no avail. Finally she promises that she’d kill herself by starving, or not drinking, or whatever she needs to do to rob Caesar the pleasure of parading her through the streets as an emblem of Roman victory. She’d rather die a miserable death in Egypt than live as a puppet of Rome.
  • 5.2.76: Cleopatra talks with Dolabella, who now guards her. She tells him of dreams she has of Antony (and speaks in the same ethereal terms that Antony did before he resolved to kill himself). She describes Antony as Atlas, a wonderful god that holds up the world. She chides Dolabella for not believing in her dream, and charges that nature lacks the stuff to compete with the wonder of the imagination. She then holds Antony up as nature’s entry into a competition with fancy, as his wonders outdo even imagination.
  • 5.2.109: Cleopatra asks Dolabella what Caesar means to do with her. She asks him outright if she’ll be put in Caesar’s victory parade, which Dolabella confirms.
  • 5.2.120: Caesar enters, and Cleopatra kneels to greet him. She admits to him that she isn’t blameless, but that she is guilty of the "frailties" that have been known to plague women. She gives herself over to him as a sign of his conquest.
  • 5.2.137: She then has a long exchange with Caesar and her treasurer. She hands Caesar a scroll that’s supposed to contain a list of all her earthly goods, so he can add them to his conquest. She asks her treasurer to confirm that all of her possessions are on the list. The treasurer refuses to do her biding and Cleopatra flies into a rage. She promises she’s only kept back those little things that ladies like. Again she rails against her treasurer, Seleucus.
  • 5.2.175: Cleopatra claims that the greatest are blamed for the actions of others.
  • 5.2.190: Cleopatra points out Caesar is trying to get the best of her with words, but her resolve is strong, and she bids the women to go forth with the plan they’ve already made. She thanks Dolabella for letting her know Caesar’s real plan.
  • 5.2.207: Cleopatra cries out to her women and condemns the parade Caesar will have. She describes, in detail, the masses that will surround them and their awful smells and sounds.
  • 5.2.226: Cleopatra bids her women to get her best clothes and crown, readying them to do what needs to be done.
  • 5.2.235: Cleopatra greets the rural man that brings her a basket of figs. She notes it’s a poor instrument that does a noble deed, bringing her liberty. She claims that she has no woman in her now, as she is certain of what she must do. The moon (ever-changing, and thus similar to Cleopatra’s temperament) is no longer her guide.
  • 5.2.249: Cleopatra asks the fig-bearing peasant if he remembers anyone that’s died by the snake. Yes, lots, is the reply. She bids the man farewell.
  • 5.2.280: Cleopatra prepares some more for her death. She says she hears Antony call, as though he praises her for what she’s about to do. She calls out that she goes to her husband, and what she does now she hopes will prove that she has courage befitting a Queen of Egypt. She has Iras kiss her lips, and Iras dies, whereupon she notes death comes as easily as a lover’s pinch.
  • 5.2.300: She worries that if Iras gets to Antony first in death, then Iras will get the kiss Cleopatra is willing to die for. She applies an asp to her breast in a jealous hurry, and demands that it untie her knot of life. Finally, she wishes the snake could speak, so it could declare that, with this suicide, Cleopatra beat Caesar at his own game.
  • 5.2.308: As Charmian cries out, Cleopatra says she should calm down; the asp is like a baby at her breast. Finally, she dies, applying another asp to her arm. She half finishes a sentence, asking "What should I stay—" and dies before she can complete the thought.