He was disposed to mirth; but on the sudden
A Roman thought hath struck him.—Enobarbus!
Seek him, and bring him hither.—Where's Alexas?
Here, at your service. My lord approaches.
Enter Antony with a Messenger.
We will not look upon him. Go with us. (1.2.87-92)
First, this "Roman thought" is presented as contrary to mirth. The lovers are both passionate as they are prone to being tempestuous, and changing their actions immediately upon a new thought. Antony quickly changed from his mirth, and Cleopatra was looking for Antony—until he showed up.
I will to Egypt.
And though I make this marriage for my peace,
I' th' East my pleasure lies. (2.3.44-46)
Antony makes this proclamation after listening to a soothsayer tell him Caesar’s fortunes are better than his, so he should go to Egypt. It’s a rare case where reason coincides with passion; Antony proclaims he’ll go to Egypt, not because of the reason the soothsayer has given him, but because his love and pleasure is there.
Canidius, we will fight
With him by sea.
By sea, what else?
my lord do so?
For that he dares us to 't. (3.7.34-39)
Antony is all impassioned at the questioning of his power. He knows that his ships are weaker than Caesar’s, and that this fight is a risk, but Caesar has dared him to fight at sea. Of course, Caesar only does this because he knows Antony is disadvantaged on the water, and that he won’t back down from a challenge. In the face of competition, Antony’s passion overpowers his reason and good sense.
Is Antony or we in fault for this?
Antony only, that would make his will
Lord of his reason. What though you fled
From that great face of war, whose several ranges
Frighted each other? Why should he follow?
The itch of his affection should not then
Have nick'd his captainship, at such a point,
When half to half the world opposed, he being
The merèd question. 'Twas a shame no less
Than was his loss, to course your flying flags
And leave his navy gazing. (3.13.3-13)
Enobarbus seems rather enraged by Antony’s own lack of reason or willpower. (Enobarbus uses "will" to refer to Antony’s desire.) In fleeing along with Cleopatra, Antony let his passion overrule his reason. Enobarbus charges that he had no reason to do this, and in following his passion, Antony has incurred shame as well as loss.
But stirred by Cleopatra.
Now, for the love of Love and her soft hours,
Let's not confound the time with conference harsh.
There's not a minute of our lives should stretch
Without some pleasure now. What sport tonight? (1.1.50-54)
Antony’s reputation at one time rested on his noble work as a soldier, with all the Roman austerity and severity that came with it. His life in Egypt (or his love) has transformed him into a man that wants pleasure all the time, which is indulgent, but also completely contrary to the Roman way.
You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,
It is not Caesar's natural vice to hate
Our great competitor. From Alexandria
This is the news: he fishes, drinks, and wastes
The lamps of night in revel, is not more manlike
Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy
More womanly than he; (1.4.1-7)
Caesar criticizes Antony’s decadent actions in Egypt, but the hint is that these are things natural to Egypt (and thus unbefitting a Roman). This decadence is also characterized by its femininity, which is linked to an Eastern way of life, and a polar opposite to the Roman austere ideal, which is linked to masculinity.
"Good friend," quoth he
"Say the firm Roman to great Egypt sends
This treasure of an oyster; at whose foot,
To mend the petty present, I will piece
Her opulent throne with kingdoms. All the East,
Say thou, shall call her mistress." (1.5.49-55)
Antony, in a very chivalrous fashion, sends his love to Cleopatra. He presents her a decadent bauble of a pearl (befitting the East), but it’s important that as he sets on his journey out of Egypt, he identifies himself as a "firm Roman." He goes as a soldier, and thus is leaving behind the decadence that characterized his life in Egypt, trading it for Roman austerity. He hasn’t forgotten her (and the East) in spite of this transformation; hence the gift.
I will tell you.
The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water. The poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion—cloth-of-gold, of tissued—
O'erpicturing that Venus where we see
The fancy out-work nature. On each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colored fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did. (2.2.226-242)
Egypt is the seat of decadence, but there’s more tied into this Orientalism than material excess. Enobarbus’s description betrays the fact that the winds and waters, even the creatures of heavenly thoughts (like cherubs and mermaids) attend to the Queen. He touches on the heart of Orientalism’s duality. It might seem contrary to man’s living that he be so decked with material goods (instead of human assets, like love, honor, etc.), but actually the Orientalist view is that nature is lush and when people revel in that lushness, they worship nature, not man. Unlike the Roman view, celebrating the good and rich world around you doesn’t detract from your goodness, but is a necessary part of it.
This is not yet an Alexandrian feast.
It ripens towards it. Strike the vessels, ho!
Here's to Caesar.
I could well forbear't.
It's monstrous labor when I wash my brain
And it grows fouler.
Be a child o' th' time.
Possess it, I'll make answer.
But I had rather fast from all, four days,
Than drink so much in one.
[To ANTONY] Ha, my brave emperor!
Shall we dance now the Egyptian bacchanals
And celebrate our drink?
Let's ha't, good soldier.
Come, let's all take hands,
Till that the conquering wine hath steep'd our
In soft and delicate Lethe. (2.7.111-128)
Antony encourages the group gathered after the truce with Pompey to have an Egyptian time. This doesn’t just mean decadence, but actual happiness. He meets friends who were former foes, and an Egyptian celebration of their truce doesn’t debase their new amity, but only increases it through their mutual happiness. When Antony suggests that Caesar stop complaining about how "he really shouldn’t drink anymore," he tells Caesar to "be a child of the time," meaning he should seize the day and enjoy their good fortune. Their differences are highlighted here—Antony earnestly celebrates like an Egyptian, while Caesar keeps his Roman wits about him, and might even now be planning his treachery against Pompey, Antony, and Lepidus. Antony, by contrast, takes the magnanimous position that they should forget about it over a drink, and be honest friends.
Contemning Rome, he has done all this and more
In Alexandria. Here's the manner of't:
I' th' marketplace, on a tribunal silver'd,
Cleopatra and himself in chairs of gold
Were publicly enthroned; at the feet sat
Caesarion, whom they call my father's son,
And all the unlawful issue that their lust
Since then hath made between them. Unto her
He gave the stablishment of Egypt; made her
Of lower Syria, Cyprus, Lydia,
This in the public eye?
I' th' common showplace, where they exercise.
His sons he there proclaimed the kings of kings.
Great Media, Parthia, and Armenia,
He gave to Alexander; to Ptolemy he assigned
Syria, Cilicia, and Phoenicia. She
In th' habiliments of the goddess Isis
That day appeared; and oft before gave audience,
As 'tis reported, so. (3.6.1-20)
Caesar rankles at the power Antony is taking, but it seems what really gets to him is the fact that all of this is done with such decadence. Cleopatra is dressed as Isis, the thrones are of gold, and worst of all, the lovers proclaimed their power in the public marketplace, where common people might exercise. To use and claim power in such an irreverent way is anathema to Caesar; Antony has officially separated himself from the austerity, temperance, and respect that traditionally define Roman values concerning the display and acquisition of power.
Our lamp is spent; it's out! Good sirs, take heart.
We'll bury him; and then, what's brave, what's
Let's do 't after the high Roman fashion
And make death proud to take us. (4.15.98-102)
Cleopatra thinks of the nobility of a Roman burial (which is a big deal, because she’s really serious about being Egyptian), but she also alludes to the fact that she’ll kill herself. Interestingly, she describes her suicide as a Roman death, characterized by honor, nobility, and sacrifice. It’s important that this is contrary to the relaxed Egyptian view: there’s a kernel of evidence here that Antony’s Roman-ness might have affected Cleopatra, where all other evidence seems to indicate that Antony was only being changed by Egypt. This is especially cool if you think about it as the basis for an argument that Antony is a true representative of Rome. It makes sense that Egypt should impact Antony, because he lives there, but if Antony is able to spread Roman values, even when he’s out of Rome and surrounded by Egyptians, then his Roman values are strong indeed.
Shall they hoist me up,
And show me to the shouting varletry
Of censuring Rome? Rather a ditch in Egypt
Be gentle grave unto me! Rather on Nilus' mud
Lay me stark naked, and let the waterflies
Blow me into abhorring! Rather make
My country's high pyramides my gibbet,
And hang me up in chains! (5.2.65-72)
Cleopatra is loyal to Egypt until the end. It isn’t just her temperament, but her heart that’s Egyptian. She would rather die an ignoble death in Egypt than suffer through a victory parade for Rome that would signify Egypt’s submission to that empire.
You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know,
It is not Caesar's natural vice to hate
Our great competitor. From Alexandria
This is the news: he fishes, drinks, and wastes
The lamps of night in revel, is not more manlike
Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy
More womanly than he; (1.4.1-7)
Caesar suggests that Antony is no better than his woman, and that Cleopatra is perhaps a little more manly than she should be. The gender ideals of Rome are all turned upside-down in Egypt.
Now Antony must leave her utterly.
Never. He will not.
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety. Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies. For vilest things
Become themselves in her, that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.
If beauty, wisdom, modesty, can settle
The heart of Antony, Octavia is
A blessèd lottery to him. (2.2.274-284)
Maecenas and Enobarbus’s conversation highlights the contrast between Octavia and Cleopatra. They represent two different types, as linked to the ideals of their home cultures, and those cultures’ expectations and judgments of women’s gender identities. In Egypt, Cleopatra’s "riggishness," or her propensity for sex, is a thing to be blessed by the priests. Her sexual desire isn’t foul, but rather fits her nature (which isn’t foul either). Octavia, by contrast, is wise and modest, which is a comparison to Cleopatra’s rashness and flashiness. Still, the play doesn’t set these personal characteristics up in a hierarchy with one as better than the other.
[aside to Agrippa] Will Caesar weep?
He has a cloud in's face.
He were the worse for that, were he a horse;
So is he, being a man.
When Antony found Julius Caesar dead,
He cried almost to roaring; and he wept
When at Philippi he found Brutus slain.
That year, indeed, he was troubled with a rheum.
What willingly he did confound he wailed,
Believe 't, till I weep too. (3.2.61-71)
Enobarbus and Agrippa argue over the old question of whether "boys don’t cry" is part of their masculine identity. Caesar seems like he would weep as his dear sister leaves him, but Agrippa points out that Antony wept over Brutus’s dead body. Since these feelings don’t compromise strength, it seems that men are allowed to have feelings in Antony and Cleopatra.
By Hercules, I think I am i' th' right.
Soldier, thou art, but his whole action grows
Not in the power on 't. So our leader's led,
And we are women's men. (3.7.84-87)
One of Antony’s soldiers confers with Canidius about the fact that fighting at sea is foolish, because they are weaker there. Canidius regrets that Antony’s actions don’t stem from the source of his own power, but the power of the woman that leads him. To be led by another’s power is a weakness. Further, as they are led by a woman’s power (which was thought of as weaker than a man’s) they are weaker than they would be if Antony were exercising his own power.
Fare thee well, dame.
[he kisses her]
Whate'er becomes of me,
And worthy shameful check it were, to stand
On more mechanic compliment. I'll leave thee
Now like a man of steel. (4.4.38-43)
Antony doesn’t dote, but leaves Cleopatra in an austere and honorable fashion, as a gallant man going to face his fate, armed with his confidence, not pride. The call of the battle has reaffirmed his manhood that had previously been called into question.
O, never was there queen
So mightily betrayed! Yet at the first
I saw the treasons planted.
Why should I think you can be mine, and true—
Though you in swearing shake the thronèd gods—
Who have been false to Fulvia? Riotous madness,
To be entangled with those mouth-made vows,
Which break themselves in swearing! (1.3.30-38)
Cleopatra recognizes that Fulvia’s marriage to Antony should carry more weight than her love as his mistress, but she still feels betrayed by Antony’s recognition of this fact. Worse, she admits she should never have expected Antony to be loyal to her, when Antony wasn’t even loyal to his wife.
So Fulvia told me.
I prithee turn aside and weep for her,
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. (1.3.91-96)
Cleopatra suggests Antony’s loyalty to Fulvia was false, and claims she should expect no more loyalty than he shows to Fulvia. Cleopatra accuses Antony of being loyal only in appearance, as he is too proud to admit that he’s simply a disloyal man.
I must not think there are
Evils enough to darken all his goodness.
His faults in him seem as the spots of heaven,
More fiery by night's blackness, hereditary
Rather than purchased, what he cannot change
Than what he chooses. (1.4.12-17)
Lepidus is loyal to a fault, and always trying to see the sunny side of things. This is in contrast to Caesar’s very practical acts of betrayal. Even in this early scene, we get the sense that Lepidus’s loyalty and trust will lead him to be betrayed.
The valiant Caesar!
By Isis, I will give thee bloody teeth
If thou with Caesar paragon again
My man of men.
By your most gracious pardon,
I sing but after you.
My salad days,
When I was green in judgment, cold in blood,
To say as I said then. (1.5.82-90)
Cleopatra and Charmian compare Cleopatra’s love for Antony with her love for Julius Caesar. Charmian points out that she once cried over Julius Caesar as she does now over Antony. Cleopatra counters that the former love affair was just the bad judgment of youth.
Say not so, Agrippa.
If Cleopatra heard you, your reproof
Were well deserved of rashness.
I am not married, Caesar. Let me hear
Agrippa further speak. (2.2.145-149)
When Agrippa suggests Antony could marry Octavia, Caesar is the one to point out that Antony’s love is supposed to be devoted to Cleopatra (though he is a little mocking in this observation). Instead of defending his loyalty to Cleopatra, Antony emotionally abandons her, and points out that whatever else he engages in with Cleopatra, he’s not married to her. It seems he betrays their love, as he’s more loyal to Rome and to his own political advantage than he is to Cleopatra and their love.
I think so too. But you shall find the band
that seems to tie their friendship together will be
the very strangler of their amity. Octavia is of a holy,
cold, and still conversation.
Who would not have his wife so?
Not he that himself is not so, which is
Mark Antony. He will to his Egyptian dish again.
Then shall the sighs of Octavia blow the fire up in
Caesar, and, as I said before, that which is the
strength of their amity shall prove the immediate
author of their variance. Antony will use his affection
where it is. He married but his occasion here. (2.6.150-161)
Enobarbus and Menas confer on Antony’s marriage to Octavia, noting that it will not add to the loyalty between Caesar and Antony, but only push them into further hatred because Antony is bound to leave Octavia for Cleopatra. Additionally, Octavia’s disposition doesn’t suit Antony; he will be loyal to Cleopatra because they share the passion that Octavia lacks. Loyalty has to be founded in something, and for Antony and Cleopatra, it’s based on their mutual passion.
But he loves Caesar best, yet he loves Antony.
Hoo, hearts, tongues, figures, scribes, bards, poets,
Think, speak, cast, write, sing, number—hoo!—
His love to Antony. But as for Caesar,
Kneel down, kneel down, and wonder.
Both he loves.
They are his shards, and he their beetle. (3.2.17-24)
Enobarbus and Agrippa joke about Lepidus’ love for both Caesar and Antony, which will prove to be his greatest weakness. By being loyal to them both, while they are budding enemies, his loyalty to each will be dismissed by the other. If Lepidus is the beetle between two wings, we get a hint that he’ll be torn in two when Antony and Caesar part. In this way, Lepidus, for his good heart, suffers for the treachery of others, much the same way Octavia will.
Come, sir, come,
I'll wrestle with you in my strength of love.
Look, here I have you, thus I let you go,
And give you to the gods. (3.2.75-78)
Antony has a little friendly tiff with Caesar about who could love Octavia more. You can’t help but be reminded of Hamlet and Laertes having this same fight as they roll around on the grave of Ophelia, both arguing then that they loved the woman more, though they really did treat her poorly when she was alive. It is suggested that, no matter what Caesar and Antony profess to feel about Octavia now, it is their very competition that will be her undoing.
A more unhappy lady,
If this division chance, ne'er stood between,
Praying for both parts.
The good gods will mock me presently
When I shall pray "O, bless my lord and husband!"
Undo that prayer by crying out as loud
"O, bless my brother!" Husband win, win brother,
Prays, and destroys the prayer; no midway
'Twixt these extremes at all. (3.4.13-21)
Octavia refuses to choose between her brother and her husband; her loyalty to both is driven by her love for both. She’s honorable and pitiable to be so loyal in a time so guided by treachery and betrayal.
She once being loofed,
The noble ruin of her magic, Antony,
Claps on his sea-wing, and, like a doting mallard,
Leaving the fight in height, flies after her.
I never saw an action of such shame;
Experience, manhood, honor, ne'er before
Did violate so itself. (18.104.22.168-28)
Scarus suggests that by following his love of a woman, not his country in battle, Antony has betrayed himself as a man, a soldier, and an honorable Roman. Loyalty to love of a woman has no place in battle, just as a woman has no place in battle.
Had our general
Been what he knew himself, it had gone well.
O, he has given example for our flight
Most grossly by his own. (3.10.31-34)
It’s at this point that Canidius decides to betray Antony, which is arguably not a betrayal of a good man, because Antony betrayed himself first by being less than he could be. Canidius will give himself and his men to Caesar’s side (as arguably Caesar is being more loyal to the facts and necessities of war).
He knows that you embrace not Antony
As you did love, but as you fear'd him.
The scars upon your honor therefore he
Does pity as constrainèd blemishes,
Not as deserved.
He is a god, and knows
What is most right. Mine honor was not yielded,
But conquered merely.
[Aside] To be sure of that,
I will ask Antony. Sir, sir, thou art so leaky
That we must leave thee to thy sinking, for
Thy dearest quit thee. (3.13.67-79)
This is arguably Cleopatra’s lowest moral point. We don’t know if she’s swayed by Thidias’ words, or her own fear over her bad fortunes, but she really fails to stand by her man here, confirming all the worst suspicions Caesar has of women.
I am alone the villain of the Earth,
And feel I am so most. O Antony,
Thou mine of bounty, how wouldst thou have paid
My better service, when my turpitude
Thou dost so crown with gold! This blows my
If swift thought break it not, a swifter mean
Shall outstrike thought, but thought will do 't, I feel.
I fight against thee? No. I will go seek
Some ditch wherein to die; the foul'st best fits
My latter part of life. (4.6.34-44)
Enobarbus feels how deeply his betrayal runs when Antony shows how deeply his loyalty goes. Even betrayed, Antony is understanding, and tries to do right by his friend. Antony blames himself rather than the traitor, and so teaches Enobarbus a lesson in true loyalty.
Triple-turn'd whore! 'Tis thou
Hast sold me to this novice, and my heart
Makes only wars on thee. Bid them all fly—
For when I am revenged upon my charm,
I have done all. (4.12.15-19)
Antony believes Cleopatra has betrayed him, causing him to lose the battle. He does not blame the soldiers for their actions, but Cleopatra alone. That Antony calls Cleopatra a "triple turn’d whore" is particularly interesting—he refers to the fact that she’s had three lovers, and likely treated the two before him with the same kind of indignity. Had she been faithful (to them or their memory), she would never have been available to him.
Madam, as thereto sworn by your command,
Which my love makes religion to obey,
I tell you this: Caesar through Syria
Intends his journey, and within three days
You with your children will he send before.
Make your best use of this. I have perform'd
Your pleasure and my promise. (5.2.1241-247)
Dolabella gets to the heart of loyalty here. He has ostensibly betrayed his master Caesar, but he has been loyal to his heart. It’s a defining moment about the meaning of loyalty, which is not only pledged to those who you’re supposed to follow politically, but to those you truly believe in and love. Dolabella has been moved by Cleopatra, and is faithful to her as a result, regardless of his position in Caesar’s camp.
If it be love indeed, tell me how much.
There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned.
I'll set a born how far to be beloved.
Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new
Our introduction to Antony and Cleopatra sets the stage for the theme of love in the play: he is earnest in trying to prove his love for her; she is slightly cruel and flippant with him. Their positions will flip often, but likely one will be in love while the other is feeling murderous, and vice versa. They constantly need each other’s affirmation (to be sure they love) and scorn (to be sure no one gets too comfortable).
Madam, methinks, if you did love him dearly,
You do not hold the method to enforce
The like from him.
What should I do I do not?
In each thing give him way; cross him in nothing.
Thou teachest like a fool: the way to lose him. (1.3.7-12)
Charmian advises Cleopatra not to play hard-to-get. Cleopatra sees that in her version of love, the most important thing is to never seem willing to give in. Playing powerful and hard-to-get is the best way to ensure Antony will still love her—it seems it’s her power and tempestuousness that keep him interested in her.
Courteous lord, one word.
Sir, you and I must part, but that's not it;
Sir, you and I have loved, but there's not it;
That you know well. Something it is I would—
O, my oblivion is a very Antony,
And I am all forgotten. (1.3.105-110)
Sometimes love steals our words from us. It seems the nature of being in love is to be driven to distraction, even for the best of us.
Not now to hear thee sing. I take no pleasure
In aught an eunuch has. 'Tis well for thee
That, being unseminared, thy freer thoughts
May not fly forth of Egypt. Hast thou affections? (1.5.12-15)
Cleopatra quizzes her eunuch (a man who’s been castrated) about whether he has sexual desires, or affections, as he is clearly unschooled in the way of love. She can’t imagine that a person could feel love without sex—it’s a powerful connection for her. This may negate the argument that she focuses solely on the act of sex, and not love.
Where think'st thou he is now? Stands he, or sits he?
Or does he walk? Or is he on his horse?
O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony!
Do bravely, horse; for wot'st thou whom thou
The demi-Atlas of this Earth, the arm
And burgonet of men. (1.5.22-29)
Cleopatra is clearly a lovesick puppy, but in her swooning over Antony, she calls him a demi-Atlas. Remember that Atlas bears the world on his shoulders, which Hercules did in a myth for at least a few minutes. Antony claims Hercules as his ancestor, and it seems Cleopatra is conscious of that power he holds and is enchanted by it as much as any other part of him.
To hold you in perpetual amity,
To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts
With an unslipping knot, take Antony
Octavia to his wife; whose beauty claims
No worse a husband than the best of men;
Whose virtue and whose general graces speak
That which none else can utter. By this marriage
All little jealousies, which now seem great,
And all great fears, which now import their dangers,
Would then be nothing. Truths would be tales,
Where now half tales be truths. Her love to both
Would each to other and all loves to both
Draw after her. (2.2.150-162)
Agrippa seizes on the notion that the love of a woman can hold everyone together. He hopes Octavia might be the bond that keeps her brother and her husband attached to each other, as she would love them both dearly. Sadly, we know that love does not conquer all in this play, as it is too often confounded by questions of power and politics.
Upon her landing, Antony sent to her,
Invited her to supper. She replied
It should be better he became her guest,
Which she entreated. Our courteous Antony,
Whom ne'er the word of "No" woman heard speak,
Being barber'd ten times o'er, goes to the feast,
And for his ordinary pays his heart
For what his eyes eat only. (2.2.258-265)
Enobarbus confirms the trope about love that keeps popping up—Antony is accustomed to hearing "yes" from women, so he’s intrigued by the woman who's haughty enough to say "no" to him. This validates Cleopatra’s earlier strategy of playing hard-to-get.
Egypt, thou knew'st too well
My heart was to thy rudder tied by th' strings,
And thou shouldst tow me after. O'er my spirit
Thy full supremacy thou knew'st, and that
Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods
Command me. (3.11.60-65)
Love and power are inextricably tied. Antony’s love for Cleopatra forces him to follow her. She is the commander of his actions, even in the political and military arenas of his life, because of his overpowering love for her.
His legs bestrid the ocean, his reared arm
Crested the world. His voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;
But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,
He was as rattling thunder. For his bounty,
There was no winter in 't; an autumn 'twas
That grew the more by reaping. His delights
Were dolphin-like: they show'd his back above
The element they lived in. In his livery
Walk'd crowns and crownets; realms and islands
As plates dropped from his pocket. (5.2.102-113)
Now that Antony is finally gone for good, Cleopatra can heap all the praise on him that she didn’t dare while he lived. She was once afraid that being honest about her feelings would push him away.
Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch
Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space.
Kingdoms are clay; our dungy earth alike
Feeds beast as man. The nobleness of life
Is to do thus; when such a mutual pair
And such a twain can do 't, in which I bind,
On pain of punishment, the world to weet
We stand up peerless. (1.1.38-45)
Antony hasn’t forsaken his concern about power by taking up with Cleopatra—far from it, in fact. Instead, he’s found the center of his power is with her, and calls their union a representation of the nobleness of life. This can be interpreted as a transformation in his view of power—it isn’t the clay earth that makes Rome’s kingdom, but the power of love between two people.
Speak to me home; mince not the general tongue.
Name Cleopatra as she is called in Rome;
Rail thou in Fulvia's phrase, and taunt my faults
With such full licence as both truth and malice
Have power to utter. O, then we bring forth weeds
When our quick winds lie still, and our ills told us
Is as our earing. (1.2.115-121)
Antony is a man of power, and like any person, he doesn’t always judge himself accurately. As a man of power, though, he needs to hear the truth about himself in order to be a better ruler.
I know by that same eye there's some good news.
What, says the married woman you may go?
Would she had never given you leave to come.
Let her not say 'tis I that keep you here.
I have no power upon you. Hers you are. (1.3.24-28)
Cleopatra admits, even half-heartedly, that Antony’s marriage to Fulvia gives that woman more power over him than Cleopatra’s love could ever command.
I should have known no less.
It hath been taught us from the primal state
That he which is was wished until he were,
And the ebbed man, ne'er loved till ne'er worth love,
Comes feared by being lacked. (1.4.46-50)
Caesar repeats what’s become a motif in the play: men out of power are wished into power until they get there, and men in power are never missed or appreciated until they’ve left it. People are ungrateful, or unable to see the good in front of them, especially when it comes to those who rule them. It’s easier to complain against those in power than to praise their good.
My powers are crescent, and my auguring hope
Says it will come to th' full. Mark Antony
In Egypt sits at dinner, and will make
No wars without doors. Caesar gets money where
He loses hearts. Lepidus flatters both,
Of both is flattered; but he neither loves,
Nor either cares for him. (2.1.13-19)
Pompey knows his powers are strong by themselves, but they’re helped by the sorry state of his enemies. Antony’s power is hurt by his devotion to Egypt, Caesar is deceived and gains money from his people through their fear rather than love, and Lepidus simply has no power. Power is diminished by diverse causes.
No, Antony, take the lot; But, first or last,
your fine Egyptian cookery shall have
the fame. I have heard that Julius Caesar
Grew fat with feasting there.
You have heard much.
I have fair meanings, sir.
And fair words to them.
Then so much have I heard.
And I have heard Apollodorus carried—
No more of that. He did so.
What, I pray you?
A certain queen to Caesar in a mattress. (2.6.80-91)
Pompey tries to get an edge over Antony, perhaps because the truce Pompey has just made admittedly weakens his own power. Pompey tries to suggest that Antony is weak in matters of love, and is conquered by Cleopatra as she once conquered Julius Caesar. Enobarbus cuts off this talk before it comes to anything, but it highlights the fact that Antony’s submission to Cleopatra does have some bearing on his political power—at least in the eyes of other Romans.
Who does i' th' wars more than his captain can
Becomes his captain's captain; and ambition,
The soldier's virtue, rather makes choice of loss
Than gain which darkens him.
I could do more to do Antonius good,
But 'twould offend him; and in his offence
Should my performance perish. (3.1.23-29)
Ventidius hits on a central notion of power—subordinates should not show up their masters, even in their masters’ names, because their acts will seem like threats instead of honors. Power is a tricky thing, and even Antony can’t be trusted, Ventidius thinks, to interpret his actions as noble instead of treacherous. (This is challenged later when Antony wholeheartedly praises Scarus for his valiant fighting, but it’s a point to consider nonetheless.)
Nay, nay, Octavia, not only that—
That were excusable, that and thousands more
Of semblable import—but he hath waged
New wars 'gainst Pompey; made his will, and read it
To public ear;
Spoke scantly of me; when perforce he could not
But pay me terms of honour, cold and sickly
He vented them, most narrow measure lent me;
When the best hint was given him, he not took 't,
Or did it from his teeth. (3.4.1-10)
Antony rankles not only at Caesar’s betrayal of their truce with Pompey, but that Caesar is also full of gossip against Antony. The biggest affront is that Caesar refuses to praise Antony’s power when he should, and if he ever does, it’s in weak terms. Caesar’s slander of Antony’s power offends Antony as much as the obvious act of treachery Caesar has committed.
I have no ears to his request. The Queen
Of audience nor desire shall fail, so she
From Egypt drive her all-disgracèd friend,
Or take his life there. This if she perform,
She shall not sue unheard. So to them both. (3.12.23-28)
Caesar can’t accept his victory gracefully, and instead must take away from Antony the one thing he loves the most, by the most treacherous way he knows how. There’s a hint that Caesar resents the love between Antony and Cleopatra (remember his adopted father, Julius Caesar, was also her lover). The young Caesar will try his damndest to rob Antony and Cleopatra of their feelings for each other by setting them against each other. It’s clear the power Caesar gained via military victory is not enough. He wishes for power over Antony's and Cleopatra’s emotions, because he envies their strength in that sacred arena, not in the least because he seems to have no capacity to inspire such strong love himself. (Remember Pompey’s comment that Caesar can raise funds, but not fondness from the people.)
Ah, let be, let be! Thou art
The armourer of my heart. False, false. This, this!
Sooth, la, I'll help. Thus it must be. (4.4.9-11)
Antony refutes the claims that his devotion to Cleopatra compromises his power. Instead, he says, she is the armor around his heart. Love and power are entwined again, as a man who fights without love, it seems, should not fight.
Not Caesar's valour hath o'erthrown Antony,
But Antony's hath triumphed on itself.
So it should be, that none but Antony
Should conquer Antony; but woe 'tis so! (4.15.17-21)
This is a complicated interpretation of power: if the fear or hatred of another man’s power forces you to take your own life, are you really the one in control, or just acting on a semblance of it? There’s a feeling of wastefulness at Antony having taken his life—did it really need to happen this way? Is Antony’s own notion of the importance of power really worth his own life? Does that compromise his nobility at the end?
Those his goodly eyes,
That o'er the files and musters of the war
Have glow'd like plated Mars, now bend, now turn,
The office and devotion of their view
Upon a tawny front. His captain's heart,
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst
The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper
And is become the bellows and the fan
To cool a gypsy's lust.
Flourish. Enter Antony, Cleopatra, her Ladies, the Train,
with Eunuchs fanning her.
Look where they come!
Take but good note, and you shall see in him
The triple pillar of the world transformed
Into a strumpet's fool. (1.1.2-14)
Antony’s men marvel at the change that’s come over him, how his temper rages and cools to suit Cleopatra’s needs. They claim love has made him a fool, but what of the idea that his life has been transformed and given new meaning by this new love? He no longer has to dwell on Roman power, but instead can stop repressing his human feelings.
Sir, sometimes, when he is not Antony,
He comes too short of that great property
Which still should go with Antony. (1.1.66-68)
Antony in Egypt is not himself, at least not the Roman Antony. He doesn’t live up to his Roman reputation or name, and has instead transformed into some other person the Romans would not recognize.
[Third Messenger exits.]
There's a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it.
What our contempts doth often hurl from us
We wish it ours again; the present pleasure,
By revolution low'ring, does become
The opposite of itself. She's good, being gone.
The hand could pluck her back that shoved her on.
I must from this enchanting queen break off.
Ten thousand harms, more than the ills I know,
My idleness doth hatch. (1.2.136-145)
Antony often has wished Fulvia dead, but getting what he wants transforms his wishes. He then changes his mind about needing to stay with Cleopatra for love. Instead, he wants to leave her, and thus changes his priorities. Duty replaces love as his highest priority (at least for now).
See where he is, who's with him, what he does.
I did not send you. If you find him sad,
Say I am dancing; if in mirth, report
That I am sudden sick. (1.3-6)
Cleopatra is again tempestuous—she constantly judges how Antony should see her and transforms herself accordingly. She’s not driven by the truth of how she’s feeling, but how she imagines she should feel or be, given the circumstances of their relationship.
Leave thy lascivious wassails. When thou once
Was beaten from Modena, where thou slew'st
Hirtius and Pansa, consuls, at thy heel
Did famine follow, whom thou fought'st against,
Though daintily brought up, with patience more
Than savages could suffer. Thou didst drink
The stale of horses and the gilded puddle
Which beasts would cough at. Thy palate then did
The roughest berry on the rudest hedge.
Yea, like the stag when snow the pasture sheets,
The barks of trees thou brows'd. On the Alps
It is reported thou didst eat strange flesh
Which some did die to look on. And all this—
It wounds thine honor that I speak it now—
Was borne so like a soldier that thy cheek
So much as lank'd not. (1.4.64-81)
Caesar describes just how ideal Antony used to be, which emphasizes how much he has changed by avoiding his duty as a soldier. Love has transformed Antony into a less-than-ideal Roman.
The beds i' th' East are soft; and thanks to you,
That called me timelier than my purpose hither,
For I have gained by't. (2.6.63-65)
Antony thanks Pompey for being the occasion by which he is a changed man—he wouldn’t have left the East if there hadn’t been something worthy to draw his attention to his duty as a soldier over his pleasure as a lover.
I have myself resolved upon a course
Which has no need of you. Begone.
My treasure's in the harbor, take it. O,
I followed that I blush to look upon!
My very hairs do mutiny; for the white
Reprove the brown for rashness, and they them
For fear and doting. (3.11.9-16)
Antony rails against himself for becoming a different person—he’s just fled the sea battle chasing after Cleopatra, and he admits he’s no longer a respectable soldier. Further, even his transformation into old age rebels against him—his wiser side (white hairs) condemns his youth (brown hairs) for their rashness, and his youth condemns his age for its cowardice in the battle, and the fact that his age lets his affection for Cleopatra overpower his strength and nobility.
You were half blasted ere I knew you.
Have I my pillow left unpressed in Rome,
Forborne the getting of a lawful race,
And by a gem of women, to be abused
By one that looks on feeders?
Good my lord—
You have been a boggler ever.
But when we in our viciousness grow hard—
O misery on't!—the wise gods seel our eyes,
In our own filth drop our clear judgments, make us
Adore our errors, laugh at 's while we strut
To our confusion. (3.13.132-144)
Antony flies into a passionate rage. It seems, having seen that Cleopatra is capable of betraying him, he is transformed. He realizes that he hasn’t judged clearly, and has been acting a fool for love. Worse, he admits that he transformed himself into something of a vagrant. He could’ve had children with the nice Octavia at home and made some very legitimate heirs, but he’s disgraced himself in Egypt with Cleopatra instead.
Now he'll outstare the lightning. To be furious
Is to be frighted out of fear, and in that mood
The dove will peck the estridge; and I see still
A diminution in our captain's brain
Restores his heart. When valor preys on reason,
It eats the sword it fights with. I will seek
Some way to leave him. (3.13.236-242)
Enobarbus hits on the great change that’s come over Antony—he has just flown into a murderous rage over Cleopatra’s betrayal, had a man beaten within an inch of his life, forgiven Cleopatra, called for wine, and resolved to murder so many people that he’ll compete with Death itself. Antony’s valor has gotten the better of him. He has forgotten his fear of death, and seems to have forgotten his reason.
The witch shall die.
To the young Roman boy she hath sold me, and I
Under this plot. She dies for 't.—Eros, ho! (4.12.53-56)
Antony’s passionate love has transformed into a rage just as passionate—one that likely can’t be satisfied.
My good knave Eros, now thy captain is
Even such a body. Here I am Antony,
Yet cannot hold this visible shape, my knave.
I made these wars for Egypt; and the Queen.
Whose heart I thought I had, for she had mine—
Which, whilst it was mine, had annex'd unto 'tA million more, now lost—she, Eros, hasPacked cards with Caesar, and false-play'd my gloryUnto an enemy's triumph. (4.14.16-24)
Antony’s failure has transformed him from the strong and resolute man he once was; now he is no more substantial than the clouds. He has also changed his thoughts on Cleopatra; thinking he now sees her as she really is, he realizes she made him a fool, and it has cost him his honor.
The miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at, but please your thoughts
In feeding them with those my former fortunes
Wherein I lived the greatest prince o' th' world,
The noblest, and do now not basely die,
Not cowardly put off my helmet to
My countryman—a Roman by a Roman
Valiantly vanquished. Now my spirit is going;
I can no more. (4.15.60-68)
Antony’s final act of suicide, though it was induced by others and not himself, is held up as a vindicating act. He seems to think that, because he took his own life, he is carrying on the tradition of nobility that characterized his life. He also admits that he’s now a broken man. Which is he really—noble or broken—and which does he see himself as?
Pray you tell him
I am his fortune's vassal and I send him
The greatness he has got. I hourly learn
A doctrine of obedience, and would gladly
Look him i' th' face. (5.2.32-36)
Cleopatra claims she is learning obedience and so will submit to Caesar, but we know she has already planned to kill herself. Perhaps she has been transformed by the gravity of these events. Interestingly, this transformation seems to occur while Cleopatra is calm, whereas all her other, more sudden changes were in a passionate state. There’s some indication that either she really has transformed to an obedient woman, or is content with her secret purpose to take her own life.
There's a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it.
What our contempts doth often hurl from us,
We wish it ours again. The present pleasure,
By revolution lowering, does become
The opposite of itself. (1.2.137-141)
Antony regrets that his wife is dead, and it seems he regrets that he wished her dead as well…now that it’s done. Only by getting what he wanted could he see how it wasn’t a good event to wish for at all. This retrospective thought is a kind of regret.
Though age from folly could not give me freedom,
It does from childishness. Can Fulvia die? (1.3.69-70)
Cleopatra admits that she is old enough to be full of vices and foolishness, but not childishness. She clearly has a moment of compassion over Fulvia’s death, even though the woman was her enemy in love.
We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so find we profit
By losing of our prayers. (2.1.7-10)
Menecrates is prophetic here when speaking to Pompey about winning the war. Pompey will indeed triumph by the truce he’ll make, but he doesn’t know now that he’ll live to regret it.
As nearly as I may
I'll play the penitent to you. But mine honesty
Shall not make poor my greatness, nor my power
Work without it. (2.2.110-113)
Antony will admit his wrongs where he’s performed them, but he’s careful to say that his repentance of those actions doesn’t diminish his power. Antony claims that his ability to be honest and admit his flaws is actually a source of his greatness.
In praising Antony, I have dispraised Caesar.
Many times, madam.
I am paid for 't now. (2.5.135-137)
Cleopatra admits that she’s wronged Julius Caesar by praising Antony, and she now pays her dues for this. She is reminded of her ills against former lovers, but repents only after she is punished for them.
Go, Eros, send his treasure after. Do it.
Detain no jot, I charge thee. Write to him—
I will subscribe—gentle adieus and greetings.
Say that I wish he never find more cause
To change a master. O, my fortunes have
Corrupted honest men! Dispatch.—Enobarbus! (4.5.20-25)
Antony feels real compassion for Enobarbus. Rather than curse him for the betrayal, Antony berates himself, feeling guilty that his bad fortune has made honest men do what they otherwise would not.
O sovereign mistress of true melancholy,
The poisonous damp of night disponge upon me,
That life, a very rebel to my will,
May hang no longer on me. Throw my heart
Against the flint and hardness of my fault,
Which, being dried with grief, will break to powder,
And finish all foul thoughts. O Antony,
Nobler than my revolt is infamous,
Forgive me in thine own particular,
But let the world rank me in register
A master-leaver and a fugitive!
O Antony! O Antony! (4.9.15-26)
Enobarbus dies with his friend’s name on his lips, lamenting the wrong he has done to Antony. Enobarbus regrets what he has done to Antony, but that he could do it breaks his heart. Most importantly, he recognizes that his regret and repentance will not absolve him or change the past. For his personal friendship, he wishes Antony to know he’s sorry. For the world, though, he’d rather bear the mark of a traitor, so everyone can know the depth of his crime. Here, Enobarbus proves he’s aware that no amount of regret he feels can outweigh the sorrow he’s caused.
I will o'ertake thee, Cleopatra, and
Weep for my pardon. So it must be, for now
All length is torture. Since the torch is out,
Lie down, and stray no farther. (4.14.44-47)
Only on hearing of Cleopatra’s death does Antony repent the rage he felt against her. Death moves Antony the way life could not, and against his reason, he follows his passion to chase after Cleopatra even in death.
Go with me to my tent, where you shall see
How hardly I was drawn into this war,
How calm and gentle I proceeded still
In all my writings. Go with me, and see
What I can show in this. (5.1.87-91)
Caesar seems to try to clear himself of blame. Is this motivated by his actual knowledge of his own hand in Antony’s death, or does he feel compelled by other reasons?
You are too indulgent. Let's grant it is not
Amiss to tumble on the bed of Ptolemy,
To give a kingdom for a mirth, to sit
And keep the turn of tippling with a slave,
To reel the streets at noon, and stand the buffet
With knaves that smell of sweat. Say this becomes
As his composure must be rare indeed
Whom these things cannot blemish—yet must
No way excuse his foils when we do bear
So great weight in his lightness. If he filled
His vacancy with his voluptuousness,
Full surfeits and the dryness of his bones
Call on him for 't! But to confound such time
That drums him from his sport and speaks as loud
As his own state and ours, 'tis to be chid
As we rate boys who, being mature in knowledge,
Pawn their experience to their present pleasure
And so rebel to judgment. (1.4.18-37)
Caesar contends that the greatest fault in Antony is not that he’s a fool for Cleopatra, which could even be excused. It’s that in order to be with her, Antony has ignored his duty in Rome and placed the burden on his friends. He compares Antony to a young man who betrays both friendship and his duty for his immediate pleasure, even though he knows better. This is an interesting comparison, since Antony, being the elder, is the one who always calls Caesar a young man.
That which combined us was most great, and let not
A leaner action rend us. What's amiss,
May it be gently heard. When we debate
Our trivial difference loud, we do commit
Murder in healing wounds. Then, noble partners,
The rather for I earnestly beseech,
Touch you the sourest points with sweetest terms,
Nor curstness grow to th' matter. (2.2.21-29)
Lepidus appeals to the friendship between the three men as the basis for their civility.
May I never
To this good purpose, that so fairly shows,
Dream of impediment. Let me have thy hand.
Further this act of grace; and from this hour
The heart of brothers govern in our loves
And sway our great designs! (2.2.173-178)
Antony wrongs Caesar here. While he claims to become a brother to Caesar by accepting Octavia’s love, it’s not long before he’s already planning to head back to Cleopatra. It's unclear whether he honestly means to honor his duty to Rome and his new wife, or if he intentionally deceives. However, it does seem more likely that this is another of his passionately rash decisions to be a friend to Caesar and Rome, rather than a willing deception.
There's my hand.
A sister I bequeath you whom no brother
Did ever love so dearly. Let her live
To join our kingdoms and our hearts; and never
Fly off our loves again. (2.2.179-183)
Caesar pledges he and Antony will be joined by Octavia, as he loves her dearly. Yet no sooner than Antony leaves for Athens do we hear that Caesar has already moved to betray Antony. Octavia’s own brother should be more tied to his declared bond of love for her than to immediately start a war with her new husband.
When I did make thee free, swor'st thou not then
To do this when I bade thee? Do it at once,
Or thy precedent services are all
But accidents unpurposed. Draw, and come.
Turn from me then that noble countenance,
Wherein the worship of the whole world lies.
Lo thee! [He turns away.]
My sword is drawn.
Then let it do at once
The thing why thou hast drawn it.
My dear master,
My captain and my emperor, let me say,
Before I strike this bloody stroke, farewell.
'Tis said, man, and farewell.
Farewell, great chief. Shall I strike now?
Why, there then.
Thus do I escape the sorrow
Of Antony's death. [Dies] (4.14.96-114)
Eros owes Antony a duty, but his friendship inspires him even more than that pledge. Eros agrees with Antony that he’d rather not see Antony bow before Caesar, but rather than kill Antony to avoid the scene, Eros takes his own life. It’s an incredibly noble sentiment, and one of the play’s only acts of utterly willing self-sacrifice. The question is whether this is an act of pure friendship or pure duty.