Study Guide

Cleopatra in The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra

Advertisement - Guide continues below


Cleopatra is the Queen of Egypt, lover to Antony, and former lover of both Julius Caesar and Pompey the Elder—it's safe to say homegirl has a "type." She’s one of Shakespeare’s richest female characters (in terms of both wealth and character development), and can be used as a case study of both a woman in power and a woman in love. 

Cleopatra In Love

In love, Cleopatra is fierce, amorous (to say the least), and quick to get angry or be loving. Fickle in her affections, Cleopatra is passionate about all of her lovers, especially Antony. With her last act we can see her devotion to Antony, choosing to join him in death rather than live without him. We guess he really wasn't irreplaceable. We wonder what Beyoncé would have to say about that.

Cleopatra the Pharaoh

Cleopatra is equally interesting as a woman in power. She rules Egypt, and except for the times she betrays Antony (i.e., when she flirts with Thidias), she’s willing to say he conquered her rather than wooed her. It seems a gamble to maintain her power by pretending her power (not her heart) was momentarily weakened. She seems willing to blame her femininity for her downfalls. So much for girl power.

Still, it can also be interpreted that she’s a woman of power when she decides on suicide. She does it out of pride—she’d rather die on the Nile than become a token of Caesar’s power. Even as she dies she wishes her death to be interpreted as a victory against Caesar in a contest of power. Quite the way to stick it to the man, don't you think?

The Feminine Mystique

She is also particularly notable for her strong sexuality and sexual relationships with the world’s most powerful men. She is one of Shakespeare’s few female characters for whom sex is not a submission, but a testament to her own glory. As such, Cleopatra is symbolic of her country. As an earthy and sensual woman, Cleopatra represents Egyptian culture (or, at least how Shakespeare saw Egypt). Her death signals not only the death of her body, but also the end of a lifestyle in Egypt—one in which life is lived passionately and is connected to the natural world.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...