Study Guide

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Choices

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Sure, sex and passion are central to Antony and Cleopatra, but you know what else is even more important? The choices our titular characters make. And honestly? These two lovers make some pretty dumb decisions that end up rippling into their personal and political lives. Hey, we've all done something stupid for love, right?

Passion is especially important when it comes to decision-making in the play: decisions made in haste are often foolish, or impermanent. The interplay between passion and reason is often at stake, and Shakespeare seems to be suggesting that passion interferes with reason.

Questions About Choices

  1. Passion seems to inform many of Antony's and Cleopatra’s judgments made in the heat of the moment. These decisions are ones they don’t often stick to (like whenever Antony decides he is betrayed by Cleopatra and resolves to leave her). Does passion ever constitute reasonable grounds for making a decision?
  2. Is passion inherently contrary to reason and good judgment? Can passion ever inspire sensible judgments, or augment them? What about this scenario: Enobarbus blames Antony’s passion for Cleopatra for his loss in the first naval battle, yet Antony’s passion for the war arguably inspires him to fight again and earn a victory the next time around.

Chew on This

Cleopatra is an inherently calculating woman, in contrast to the passion that Antony feels for her. Antony makes all of his flawed decisions out of his passion for Cleopatra, whereas she only makes decisions to benefit her, like her willingness to listen to Thidias, based on the fact that allying with Caesar would be an advantageous act.

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