Study Guide

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Power

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As Kanye once said, "No one man should have all that power." And we agree. Power in Antony and Cleopatra is ostensibly a political force, as the play centers on the competition between Antony and Caesar for dominance in Rome. Not just Rome, but the entire Roman Empire. Check out this map to get an idea of just how huge of an area that is. But it has other facets, too, most notably the effect of love as an overpowering force. Antony refuses to be dominated by Caesar, but he willingly submits his love and allegiance to Cleopatra. Power is thus a political and a personal force, one that impacts the desires of individuals in both realms.

Questions About Power

  1. Antony constantly refers to the fact that Cleopatra has supremacy over him, that she is the commander of his heart. Still, he blames her for his political losses—whose fault is this? Is it ever OK to let love and politics mingle?
  2. Is the source of Antony’s downfall the fact that he’s lost all of his power in Rome? He seems to take his position as a powerful man in the triumvirate really seriously. Does he do anything to maintain this power? Why is he so comfortable just resting on his laurels in Egypt?
  3. Is the play really about the conflict of power politically, or about the power of love?
  4. To go totally out on a limb here, is Shakespeare incorporating the fact that Queen Elizabeth I (who was dead when he wrote this play) forsook getting married so England’s crown wouldn’t go to another country? Did contemporary English politics play into Antony and Cleopatra?

Chew on This

Power is the main priority of nearly every major character in the play. 

Caesar is the only "honorable" character among the whole lot of them because he never pretends his actions are in the name of anything besides his sheer desire for power.

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