The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Tragedy
Caesar dotes on Cleopatra happily, but realizes he’s turning into a fool for love. He gets word that affairs in Rome and his part of the Asian kingdom are falling apart in his absence.
Antony is pretty happy about being in love, but realizes he’s been made a kitten by his fawning over Cleopatra. He’s losing status in Rome, and worse, his friends need him back in at home to help fight a war that Pompey is waging, even as they are just concluding a war with his own wife and brother. He clearly can’t stay with his love in Egypt, as his Roman honor is at stake.
Antony goes back to Rome, makes tentative peace with Caesar by marrying Octavia, and strikes a happy truce with Pompey.
On his return to Rome, he answers all of Caesar’s grievances, agrees to conclude the matter once and for all by taking Caesar’s sister, Octavia, as his wife, and manages to have a happy time with Pompey, who has agreed to a truce instead of a war. Still, he plans to have his cake and eat it too, as he’ll return to Egypt anyway.
Caesar starts waging war against Pompey, breaking their pact, and he slanders Antony publicly. Antony goes to battle against Caesar, but Cleopatra’s fleet deserts him. The woman’s loyalty is questioned as she flirts with one of Caesar’s messengers.
Turns out, the marriage and truce haven’t secured Antony’s honor after all. Now he has to fight Caesar. While it gives him a good excuse to get rid of Octavia (and the chance to return to Egypt), it seems he can’t even trust Cleopatra, as he loses a naval battle when she turns tail and abandons Antony. Though Antony will eventually forgive Cleopatra, he curses her for her willingness to fraternize with Caesar’s messenger, Thidias. That flirtation was a clear betrayal of Antony’s love, fresh after her forcing him to betray his honor.
Antony’s own men, including his friend Enobarbus, are deserting him to join ranks with Caesar’s army. Though Antony wins one battle, he loses another on the sea as Cleopatra’s fleet deserts him yet again.
Unbeknownst to Antony, his watchmen hear music in the night that they interpret to be the sign that Hercules, Antony’s claimed forefather, is deserting him. The next morning, Antony hears of Enobarbus’s desertion, and laments that he’s turned even good men to corruption and betrayal. On the morning of the final sea battle, Antony watches from a hill as his own men rush to meet Caesar’s men as friends. All is clearly lost, and he’s sure it’s because Cleopatra has betrayed him. He determines to kill her.
Death wish Stage
Antony, thinking Cleopatra has committed suicide over his fury, kills himself. Cleopatra, knowing her lover is dead and that she is to be marched through Rome as a captive monument of Caesar’s triumph, also takes her own life.
Antony believes his best option is now suicide. Unfortunately, Antony isn’t so good at killing himself, and his own stab isn’t immediately fatal. He’s borne to Cleopatra and dies in her arms. She gives up, as the world isn’t worth living in if he’s absent from it. She resolves immediately upon his death to kill herself, and is only made surer of this course when she learns that Caesar (who has his men guard her) plans to parade her around Rome. For her honor, and to be with Antony, Cleopatra kills herself.