Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra is considered a tragedy, though it is also referred to as historical work by some. It was first published in his "first folio" in 1623, but was reportedly first performed at either the Blackfriars or Globe theatre by Shakespeare's acting company the King's Men.

Antony and Cleopatra was written about character Mark Antony, who first appeared in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, and his lover Cleopatra. Within the play the action shifts back and forth between Rome and Egypt, and the two locations seem to almost play a role. Alexandria is portrayed as a sensual and creative place while Rome is less extravagant and more pragmatic. Rome is ruled by three joint rulers called triumvirs; Mary Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus.

In the play Mark Antony shirks his responsibilities in Rome after becoming seduced by Egyptian Queen Cleopatra. As a soldier he neglects his own state matters including his wife Fulvia's death after her rebellion against Octavius. Octavius calls upon Antony to return to Rome and Cleopatra implores him to stay with her. Though he swears his love for Cleopatra, he finally leaves back for Rome.

Back home it is proposed that Mark Antony marry Octavius' younger sister Octavia to prove the deep bond between the two men. Enobarbus, Antony's lieutenant, describes the unparalleled beauty of Cleopatra knowing that he will not be satisfied marrying Octavia. Not wanting to anger Octavius and face political strife, Antony marries his sister.

When Cleopatra finds out about the marriage she is enraged, striking out at the messenger who brought her the news. She calms down slightly when she hears that Octavia is unattractive.

The leaders of Rome are not in agreement over a war with Sextus Pompey. When Lepidus and Octavius break a truce and resume battle with Sextus, Antony is not consulted and he becomes angry with the other two triumvirs. He returns to Egypt and Cleopatra and crowns himself and his lover the rulers of Egypt and a third of the Roman Republic. He demands that Octavius give him a fair share of Sextus' land. Octavius has meanwhile imprisoned Lepidus and is not pleased with Antony's actions.

When a battle begins between Octavius and Antony at sea, Cleopatra and her fleet flee with Antony following. His Roman forces are left in ruin and Antony is angry that Cleopatra has made him a coward, though he forgives her. Octavius then sends Cleopatra a direct message asking her to abandon Antony and join his side. She considers it while flirting with the messenger and Antony is furious. Again, however, he forgives her and vows to fight another battle, on land this time, for her.

Antony is plagued by disloyal allies like Enobarbus, but treats his defector with such kindness that Enobarbus dies broken-hearted. His troops desert him and he loses the battle, finally denouncing Cleopatra as a traitor. Cleopatra decides to stage her death to win back Antony's love. But her plan backfires when Antony sees her body and decides to kill himself. When mortally wounded he learns she is in fact alive, and is brought to her death monument to die embracing her.

Octavius arrives to convince Cleopatra to surrender, but she refuses. She does not want to be paraded through the streets of Rome and remembered in history as a villain. She is betrayed and imprisoned by the Roman soldiers, her wealth stripped from her, and warned that Octavius will indeed parade her through Rome.

With this news Cleopatra takes her only life with poison, delighting at how she will meet Antony again after death. Octavius becomes the singular Roman Emperor, but feels some pity for the two lovers and has them buried together.