Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Life of Markus Antonius and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony from the time of the Parthian War to Cleopatra's suicide. The major antagonist is Octavius Caesar, one of Antony's fellow triumvirs and the future first emperor of Rome. The tragedy is a Roman play characterized by swift, panoramic shifts in geographical locations and in registers, alternating between sensual, imaginative Alexandria and the more pragmatic, austere Rome. Many consider the role of Cleopatra in this play one of the most complex female roles in Shakespeare's work. She is frequently vain and histrionic, provoking an audience almost to scorn; at the same time, Shakespeare's efforts invest both her and Antony with tragic grandeur. These contradictory features have led to famously divided critical responses. (From feedbooks.com)
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Watch the video on characterization below. In the highlighted text, we can infer from Philo's speech that he believes that Antony, a Roman general, has allowed his infatuation with Cleopatra to control him. (This annotation contains a video)
Which character trait would best describe Antony based on the highlighted text?
Antony, one of the three leaders of the Roman empire, is involved romantically with the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. However, he is married to Fulvia. (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the short video on setting. We have had several clues that this play is set in the ancient Roman Empire, more specifically in ancient Egypt. Antony references Rome and the river Tiber in his passionate declaration of love for Cleopatra in the highlighted statement. (This annotation contains a video)
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Choose one word to describe how Philo and Demetrius view Antony at this time. Give at least one example from the text that explains why you chose this word.
Herod, the Roman governor over Israel at the time of Jesus Christ's birth, heard a prophecy of the birth of a child who would become the king of the Jews. He then ordered the murder of all the infants in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the Messiah. The audience during the Elizabethan era of Shakespeare would have recognized this reference or allusion (see the definition below) to Herod. (This annotation contains an image)
What do Charmian and Iras do to see their futures?
Watch the short video below on theme. In the highlighted text, we begin to see the emerging themes of emotion versus reason and the East versus the West. How do Cleopatra's words support these? (This annotation contains a video)
Here, Cleopatra refers to herself in the plural; this denotes her royal status.
Labienus, a Roman general, was supposed to subdue Parthia and garner support against Antony and Octavius Caesar. Below is a picture of a map of Parthia. (This annotation contains an image)
Explain how Mark Antony's words in the highlighted text support the theme of emotion versus reason.
Domitius Enobarbus says in the highlighted text that if Antony's reason to leave is important enough, let the women die. In addition, if the decision is between the women and a great cause, the women are worthless. This sentiment supports which theme?
Below is a picture of Jove, the Roman god of thunder and lightning. (This annotation contains an image)
In the highlighted text, Cleopatra dismisses Charmian's advice as foolish. Which statement below best summarizes Charmian's advice to the queen?
Watch the short video below on tone and mood. In the highlighted text, the tone is anxious as Charmian warns Cleopatra that we come to hate that which controls us. This creates a foreboding mood in us as readers because it foreshadows tragic events to come. (This annotation contains a video)
This line is a cultural reference to the Roman practice of placing vials of tears in a loved one's urn. The photograph below shows an ancient Roman burial urn. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Cleopatra's tone during her exchange with Antony?
Octavius Caesar compares Antony's self-indulgent and lazy ways to Ptolemy, the deceased Pharaoh of Egypt and Cleopatra's former husband (and younger brother). By doing this, Caesar casts Egypt, considered an eastern civilization, in a negative light compared to the "rational" Rome. Readers pick up on the political tension between East and West.
Watch the video on similes and metaphors below. In the highlighted example, readers see Lepidus say that Antony's faults stand out because they must be compared to all his virtues, like the stars in the dark night. Is this an example of a simile or metaphor? (This annotation contains a video)
Which statement below best summarizes Octavius Caesar's sentiment in the highlighted text?
Personification is used in the purple text in the picture below. We can infer from those two examples that this literary device gives human characteristics to nonhuman objects. Based on what you just learned, why is the highlighted text an example of personification? (This annotation contains an image)
Readers' perceptions of Antony are heavily influenced by the dialogue of other characters. Explain how Antony is perceived through Octavius Caesar's eyes. How does his perception of Antony contribute to the tension between the East and West?
What gift does Antony send to Cleopatra?
Notice that Cleopatra points out that Antony demonstrates an even disposition and does not reveal whether he is happy or sad upon leaving Egypt. This once again serves to draw attention to the rational West (represented by Antony) versus the emotional East (represented by Cleopatra and her changing moods).
John Stanhope's painting (below) entitled, "The Waters of Lethe and the Plain of Elysium" depicts the river in the underworld that causes drinkers to forget everything. Pompey makes an allusion to the river Lethe in the highlighted text in hopes that Cleopatra will have a similar effect as the River Lethe over Antony. (This annotation contains an image)
Which word below best describes the tone of both Pompey's reference and Stanhope's painting?
Antony points out that Caesar is mistaken, and Antony's brother's fight was with both Caesar and Antony since Caesar and Antony share a common cause. At the end of the highlighted text, Antony says that Caesar needs a better excuse than this to pick a fight. Can you see the tension between these two leaders?
Based on the highlighted text, readers can infer which central idea?
Watch the video on hyperbole. Here, Caesar says that it is no longer possible to be friends with Antony. However, if there was something that he could do to join them together, Caesar would go to the ends of the world to find it. This highlighted statement is an example of a hyperbole. (This annotation contains a video)
Using the highlighted text, determine what is Pompey's greatest military strength?
Lawrence Alma-Tadema's painting (below), "Antony and Cleopatra" depicts Cleopatra on her golden barge. How does this painting compare to how you visualized Cleopatra on her barge in Domitius Enobarbus' description in the highlighted text? (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the video on context clues below. In the highlighted text, we can figure out that "Nereides" refers to mermaids or sea nymphs based on the text that follows this word. (This annotation contains a video)
What does the highlighted text reveal about Antony and Cleopatra's relationship?
This is a term used to address someone of lower status.
Watch the video on foreshadowing. In the highlighted text, the fortuneteller urges Antony to return to Egypt. He foreshadows that things will not bode well for Antony if he stays in Italy. (This annotation contains a video)
Who does the soothsayer (fortune teller) predict will be victorious in the end?
Using context clues in the highlighted text, readers can infer that an "angle" is
In the highlighted text, Cleopatra boasts that she is able to use Antony’s attraction to her and alcohol to control him. This offers further proof that the East is seen as a sensuous civilization in contrast to the West. Has Shakespeare pushed one civilization over the other, or has he only presented the tension between both the East and the West to the audience?
The Furies are mythological creatures, whose purpose is to torture those who have committed murder. The painting below by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, entitled "The Remorse of Orestes," depicts these wrathful creatures. (This annotation contains an image)
Which type of figurative language is primarily used in the highlighted text?
A symbol is something that stands for something else. Here, in the highlighted text, Cleopatra says, "May Egypt drown in the Nile, and all good creatures turn into poisonous snakes." The snake is an important symbol in this play. As you continue to read, look for other references to snakes. (This annotation contains an image)
Which character trait would best describe Cleopatra in this moment?
This line is in reference to a common military strategy of holding hostages until all war negotiations are completed.
Birds are common symbols in Shakespeare's plays. Below is a picture of a cuckoo bird. Pompey refers to this bird because these birds lay their eggs in other birds' nests. How does this comparison help you to understand what has happened between Pompey, Antony, and Caesar? (This annotation contains an image)
Which statement below best summarizes what is meant by the highlighted text?
Here we see foreshadowing again when Domitius Enobarbus says that he does believe that Antony and Caesar will always be united (through Antony's marriage to Octavia). As you continue to read, look for evidence to support or refute Enobarbus' prediction.
Domitius Enobarbus claims that Antony will return to Cleopatra, his passion. In addition, Enobarbus claims Antony only married out of political necessity. Do you agree or disagree with Enobarbus's claims? Why or why not?
Below is a picture of the ancient Pyramids. (This annotation contains an image)
Which symbol does Lepidus refer to? Choose the option that we have already discussed as having literary significance in this play.
The "elements" refer to earth, wind, fire, and water. These (pictured below) are considered to be the building blocks of life in the ancient world. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Menas wish for Pompey to do?
Neptune is the god of the sea in Roman mythology. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz One on Acts I and II
Media and Mesopotamia border Parthia during this time period.
Watch the video below on verbal irony. In the highlighted text, we see Agrippa use verbal irony because essentially Agrippa says that Lepidus is an elegant man. However, Lepidus means elegant in Latin. As readers, we recognize that Agrippa means the exact opposite of his words. (This annotation contains a video)
Which literary device does Domitius Enobarbus use in the highlighted text?
Summarize Antony's words in the highlighted text.
Watch the video clip of Mark Antony's speech from Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar" below. The highlighted text refers to the plot of this other Shakespearean tragedy. (This annotation contains a video)
The messenger has just arrived from Rome. Take a virtual field trip and explore the city of Rome in the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
How old does the messenger believe Octavia, Antony's new wife, to be?
Antony says that Pompey has made a will and read it in a public assembly. This is a common practice among politicians of this time. By giving the city public parks, orchards, or money, politicians gain popularity. Why might Pompey wish to win the people's favor?
Ledipus has been imprisoned. When will he be freed?
Octavius Caesar's adopted father was Julius Caesar. Biologically, Julius Caesar with Octavius Caesar's uncle.
What can be inferred from Octavius Caesar's words in the highlighted text?
Mecaenas tells Octavia that Antony has returned to Cleopatra, his mistress. Mecaenas is trying to stir up Octavia's anger and feelings of betrayal towards her husband. What are his motives?
Which word best describes Cleopatra's tone in the highlighted text?
Read the characteristics of tragic heroes in literature below. In this play, Antony is a tragic hero. What character trait can you infer from Antony's words in the highlighted text that may contribute to his downfall? (This annotation contains an image)
A legion (like the one pictured below) refers a military divisions of 4,500 infantry soldiers! In the text, Antony reveals that they have nineteen legions! That is 85,500 foot soldiers plus the twelve thousand on horseback. Would you be afraid to go up against that army? (This annotation contains an image)
According to Canidius, who is in command?
In the highlighted text, Domitius Enobarbus says that they are ruined because the Egyptian ship, the Antoniad, followed by sixty Egyptian ships flees the battle. As you continue to read, look for another reference to Cleopatra's ships.
Summarize Antony's actions in the highlighted text.
Below is a map of Peloponnesus (located in southern Greece). (This annotation contains an image)
Which type of figurative language is used in the highlighted text?
Watch the video on the types of conflict in literature. As your read the highlighted text, which clues help you to identify that Antony is struggling with internal conflict? (This annotation contains a video)
According to Antony, which symbol represents Cleopatra and her hold over him?
Octavius Caesar demonstrates how little esteem he holds for Antony by stating that he has no interest in Antony's requests. However, he says that he will listen to Cleopatra's request if she throws out the dishonorable Antony or kills him.
The word "vestal" means a virgin priestess.
Antony, who in the beginning of the play represents reason, is now seen as a man who allows emotions to rule him. Give at least one example from the play to support this change.
In the highlighted text, Antony challenges Octavius Caesar to fight him. Who do you predict will win?
Which statement best summarizes the message that Thyreus gives to Cleopatra on Octavius Caesar's behalf?
What is the tone of the highlighted text?
Below is a picture of a Roman flagrum or whip. This one has lead weights at the ends that would shred the skin. (This annotation contains an image)
In the highlighted text, we get a glimpse into this ancient society's beliefs. Excerpts such as this one remind us that this play is a work of historical fiction. Watch the video below to learn more about historical fiction. (This annotation contains a video)
Which type of figurative language is used in the highlighted text?
Compare Mecaenas' position on anger to Mark Twain's position in the quote below. Do they share the same position? Why or why not? (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a picture of the Roman God Hercules. The soldier points out that the music represents Hercules, Antony's patron god, leaving him. Antony's family claims to be descended from Hercules. Therefore, this is a sign that Antony will be defeated. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Cleopatra do for Antony?
In this scene, the soldier reveals that Enobarbus has deserted Antony and fled to Caesar's camp.
This refers the areas controlled by the Roman Empire: Africa, Europe, and Asia. The map below will allow you to visualize the far-reaching control of the Roman Empire at its height. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the highlighted text, which character traits best describe Enobarbus in this moment?
Below is artwork depicting the god Phoebus' "ca,r" or chariot, which he drives across the sun. (This annotation contains an image)
At what time does the first soldier say they will begin forming for battle?
Watch the short video explaining protagonists and antagonists in literature below. Who is the antagonist in this play? (This annotation contains a video)
Who is the primary antagonist in the battle scenes in this play?
Cleopatra alludes to the shirt poisoned with Nessus' blood that killed Hercules (in the statue below Hercules is slaying Nessus). Why might Cleopatra reference this when speaking to Antony? (This annotation contains an image)
What does Cleopatra do as a result of Antony spurning her?
Antony says to Eros that they have the option of committing suicide. We can see how the plot thickens and is speeding towards a tragic end with Cleopatra pretending to be dead and Antony speaking of killing himself.
Watch the video on dramatic irony below. Be prepared to explain how this literary device is used in this scene. (This annotation contains a video)
Explain Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony in the highlighted text. What effect does this create for readers?
Antony has asked Eros to kill him. However, Eros ends up killing himself rather than suffer the agony of losing Antony. What can you infer about Eros' character?
Which type of figurative language is used in the highlighted text to convey that the soldiers' guiding light is gone?
Pay attention to Cleopatra's assertion that she is safe from knives, poisons, snakes, etc. As you continue to read, one of these listed will play an important role in Cleopatra's fate. Can you guess which one?
Why must they "heave Mark Antony aloft to Cleopatra"? In other words, why will she not come down to the dying Antony?
The highlighted text is an example of foreshadowing. This tragedy will not be over until calamity befalls Cleopatra as well.
Macaenas points out that Antony's faults were equally matched by his virtues. Give at least one example of a fault and a virtue from Antony's life.
Cleopatra says that she will kneel before Caesar if he will in turn give her Egypt, so her son may rule. As a reader, can you trust Cleopatra's words? Why or why not?
Which word most accurately describes Cleopatra's tone in the highlighted text?
Watch the scene below that you just read. Is the stage production similar or different to how you pictured this scene in your mind? (This annotation contains a video)
Does the scene from the Royal Shakespeare Company in the previous annotation stay true to Shakespeare's scene between Dolabella and Cleopatra? Why or why not? (Be sure to give at least one example to support your answer.)
Livia is Octavius Caesar's wife.
Who gives Cleopatra the information that Caesar will travel to Syria and intends to send Cleopatra and her children before him?
Cleopatra asks if this man has brought her the snake of the Nile that kills without pain. Why might she wish to have one of these snakes? The snake that she refers to is most likely thought to be an Egyptian Cobra, a poisonous snake. (This annotation contains an image)
Here, Cleopatra prepares to commit suicide and be reunited with Antony in death. Watch the short video on the life of Cleopatra below. The author of the video, David Escobar, questions how Cleopatra's life was ultimately ended. What do you think of her fascinating life? (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the highlighted text, which character trait best describes Cleopatra?
Watch the trailer for the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of "Antony and Cleopatra." Pay special attention to how this play is visually portrayed in the preview. (This annotation contains a video)
After viewing the Royal Shakespeare Company's trailer for Antony and Cleopatra in the last video annotation, describe whether or not you think that this modern film preview accurately describes the story line through the use of music, words, and imagery.