Theatre: Antony and Cleopatra
This will end well...
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety.
—Enobarbus, on Cleopatra 2.2.244
A Roman tragedy by William Shakespeare
. It can be viewed as a sequel to Julius Caesar
, though more for historical than thematic reasons. Shakespeare's source for the play was Thomas North's
1579 translation of Plutarch's Lives,
and the play is essentially an adaptation of it.
The play focuses on the tragic fall of Mark Antony, a Roman general, as he is seduced by Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII
. Antony spends much of the play ignoring his duties as a general to Rome, while living it up in Alexandria with Cleo. Octavius Caesar
, nephew of Julius
, is unhappy with this, because Rome is involved in a war with Pompey and could really use Antony's help. Antony leaves Alexandria for Rome, not realizing Octavius envies his power and plots to overthrow him when the war is over. Meanwhile, Cleopatra pines and beats up a messenger. And more stuff happens. The plot is extremely complicated; if you want the full story, go to Sparknotes or The Other Wiki
. Or, you know, read/go see the play.
The story is set in both Rome and Alexandria, and jumps from location to location constantly. It includes a battle at sea, cross-dressing, drunken reveling, a eunuch, and a very poignant suicide attempt which is interrupted by a clown. One of the most memorable aspects of the play is Cleopatra; she's considered the most complex female character in the Shakespeare canon, and she's certainly the most emotionally extreme.
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Enobarbus, after his Face-Heel Turn.
- Ascended Extra: Enobarbus has only a few lines in the Plutarch.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Antony, at least when his head isn't full of Cleopatra.
- Bad Ass: It is an incredibly poor idea to mess with Antony, or, on Caesar's side, Taurus.
- Bearer of Bad News: The messenger; Cleopatra beats him up for daring to report that Antony has married Octavia. He catches on, though, and later only brings Cleo good, if questionably truthful, news.
- Big Bad: Caesar.
- Bungled Suicide: Antony has a hard time stabbing himself.
- Butt Monkey: Lepidus. He tries to be the mediator between Octavius and Antony and ends up getting jailed.
- Mardian and the Messenger seem to fulfill this role in Cleopatra's court.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: Caesar. Subverted in that he is well aware of this.
- Played straight with Lepidus.
- The Charmer: Cleopatra, just another way for her to wrap you around her finger.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Octavius Caesar, though older than most examples, is often noted for only being in his twenties and ruling Rome.
- Civil War: In Italy. It's what spurs Antony to want to leave Egypt.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Yet another persona of Cleopatra's large tool box for twisting Antony and others to doing what she wants.
- Clothing Switch: Cleo says in Act 2 Scene 5 that she and Antony swapped clothes.
Cleopatra: I drunk him to his bed/ Then put my tires and mantles on him whilst/ I wore his sword Phillipan.
- Commander Contrarian: Enobarbus. In an unusual subversion, he is absolutely right.
- Complexity Addiction: Cleopatra can't simply say something straight to your face or ask you for something, she'll make sure to manipulate your emotions and thoughts to get what she wants, even when it's completely unnecessary or even counterproductive.
- Conflicting Loyalty: A major part of Antony's character. He's stuck between his love for Cleopatra and his duty to serve Rome.
- Enobarbus is also conflicted between his love for Antony and his duty to Rome.
- Deadpan Snarker: Enobarbus, who always has something snarky to say about Antony's behaviour around Cleo. In the boat party scene, he has a great line:
Enobarbus: (*seeing a man carry an unconscious Lepidus back to shore) There's a strong man, Menas.
Menas: How so?
Enobarbus A' bears a third part of the world!
- Throughout Act 1, Scene 2, Charmian makes snarky remarks about all of the soothsayer's predictions. The soothsayer eventually gets in the game when Charmian asks how many children she will have.
Soothsayer: If every of your wishes had a womb,/ And fertile every wish, a million.
- Death by Despair Enobarbus. But not before he finishes his nice long monologue, of course.
- Decoy Antagonist: Pompey.
- Despair Event Horizon: Being a Shakespearean play, this happens to many characters. Enobarbus, for exactly, actually dies from despair.
- Double Entendre:
Charmian: Oh, excellent! I love long life better than figs.
- And by figs, she means testicles.
- There are several others scattered throughout the play, some of them quite sly. Antony and Cleopatra is rife with sexual imagery.
- The Dragon: Taurus, to Caesar.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Enobarbus' betrayal affects Antony deeply.
- Exact Words: The soothesayer is very fond of this.
- Face-Heel Turn: Deconstructed with Enobarbus - his betrayal makes him so upset, he dies.
- Faking the Dead: Cleopatra decides to make Antony regret yelling at her by having her messenger announce she is dead. This prompts Antony to kill himself. Bad move, Cleo.
- Femme Fatale: Cleopatra, though she does genuinely love Antony.
- The Fettered: A common trait among Romans and especially Antony. When he hears his home is under attack, his first instinct is to return with his men and defend Italy.
- Foil: While all of the characters have some foil to another character, the largest one is between the general attitudes of the Roman people and the Egyptian people, to the extent where Egypt embodies the id while Rome embodies the superego.
- Fortune Teller: The soothsayer.
- Four-Star Badass: Antony and Taurus. Even Caesar respects Antony's military prowess.
- The Hedonist: Egypt's inhabitants exemplify this to some extent. Mark Antony, having lived in Egypt for a while now also seems to be holding these ideals closely.
Mark Antony: There's not a minute of our lives should stretch/ Without some pleasure now.
- Historical-Domain Character: Augustus, Cleopatra VII and Gaius Julius Caesar all play important parts.
- Honor Before Reason: Pompey has every single one of his enemies drunk and onboard his flagship. When Menas suggests that they simply sail away and force the others to terms, Pompey refuses, as he has already agreed to a peace treaty. This gets him killed later on.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Enobarbus.
- Living Emotional Crutch: According to Enobarbus, men to women, because women supposedly can't control their emotions.
Enobarbus: Why, then, we kill all our women. We see how mortal an unkindness is to them. If they suffer our departure, death’s the word.
- It should be noted, Antony has quite the opposite opinion, at least for Cleopatra.
- It should also be noted that that passage can also be read an extended Double Entendre, as "die/death" was a common Elizabethan euphemism for orgasm (as well as a current euphemism for the same in French).
- Loss of Identity: Another part of Antony's character due to his self view as a Roman soldier and his hedonistic actions and time spent in Egypt.
- Love Hurts: It's a Shakespearean Tragedy, it's going to hurt quite a bit before the story is done.
- Love Makes You Dumb: The title characters.
- Love Ruins the Realm: Pretty well the whole concept of the play.
- Manipulative Bastard: Caesar - no-one, not even his own sister, is safe from being a tool in his schemes.
- Manipulative Bitch: Cleopatra, to some extent or another, tries manipulate everyone around her, to the point where it begins to backfire on her and largely contributes to her and Antony's deaths.
- Manly Tears: Antony's men complain that Antony is making them cry during his supposedly-Rousing Speech.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Inverted, due to the time period's values and according to Enobarbus, women are.
Enobarbus: When it pleaseth their deities to take the wife of a man from him, it shows to man the tailors of the earth, comforting therein, that when old robes are worn out, there are members to make new. If there were no more women but Fulvia, then had you indeed a cut, and the case to be lamented.
- Name and Name
- Old Maid: Charmian is rather unhappy about having no children.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Cleopatra's specialty and one of her many means of trying to manipulate other people.
- Poisonous Friend: Subverted when Pompey lambasts Menas for not being this to him.
- Posthumous Character: Fulvia's dead before she ever gets on stage.
- Pride: A trait that the Romans exemplify quite a bit, to the point where they view the Egyptians as inferior for their lifestyle.
- Really Gets Around: Certain Romans dissatisfied with Antony's behavior often call Cleopatra a whore. This is somewhat unfair. She had three affairs with famous men, twice to protect her realm and once for love, and cares deeply for the children arising from the second one.
- Rousing Speech: Subverted— Antony's speech to his troops is rather... depressing.
- Shaped Like Itself: Antony describing the crocodile to Lepidus makes this the Trope Namer.
Lepidus: What manner o' thing is your crocodile?
It is shaped, sir, like itself
; and it is as broad as it hath breadth: it is just so high as it is, and moves with its own organs: it lives by that which nourisheth it; and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.
Lepidus: What colour is it of?
Mark Antony: Of it own colour too.
Lepidus: 'Tis a strange serpent.
Mark Antony: 'Tis so. And the tears of it are wet.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Weirdly averted— at the play's climax, after Antony has died and Cleopatra has decided to kill herself rather than be paraded to Rome as Octavius' trophy, she calls for someone to bring her some asps... and that someone is a Clown, who proceeds to make bawdy puns about the "worm" eating women. This happens right before Cleopatra kills herself.
- Shout-Out: Enobarbus' famous description of Cleopatra's barge is paraphrasing the description in North's Plutarch, Shakespeare's source.
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: Alexas plays the straight man to Charmian's wise guy.
- Sympathy for the Hero: Caesar seems to pity Antony even while in the midst of taking him down. While some performances may turn the "Poor Antony" line into something more mocking, Caesar's grief at Antony's death shows true concern and feeling for Antony.
- Tag Team Suicide: Two examples, actually; Antony's servant decides to off himself when Antony does, leaving Antony to kill himself... himself. He screws up, though, and gets brought to Cleopatra, who also decides to kill herself.
- The Extremist Was Right: Whilst Antony and Cleopatra are more sympathetic overall, it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that the world would be better off with them in charge rather than Caesar.
- Thinking Out Loud: Quite often. This is a Shakespeare play after all.
- Tsundere: Cleopatra acts this way for a short while in Act 1 Scene 3 to manipulate Antony into doing... something?
- Worthy Opponent: Pompey to the triumvirate. He refuses, for example, to kill the leading members when they're in a vulnerable position.
- Xanatos Gambit: Caesar pulls one in marrying his sister to Antony - if Antony is faithful, it breaks his influence in Egypt and binds him to Caesar. If he is not, it gives Caesar an excuse to go to war with him, as well as a propaganda coup.
- Yes-Man: Lepidus.
- Your Cheating Heart: Antony is cheating on his wife back in Rome, Fulvia, with Cleopatra. The marriage wasn't exactly a happy one before Cleopatra came in either. He also cheats on his second wife Octavia.