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[John W. Waterhouse. Cleopatra, exhibited in 1888. Source]
    Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare's best known later tragedies. Written about ten years after Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra portrays actual events and persons from Roman history, but unlike Julius Caesar it also embodies the love story of its title characters.

Antony, Cleopatra, and Augustus Caesar, Shakespeare depicts characters that are larger than life, all three of the main figures commanding "planetary" status as rulers of the world and instruments of its destiny. Antony and Cleopatra is a very involved play, featuring rapid shifts between Cleopatra's palace in Alexandria, Egypt and Antony's homeland in Rome, along with two major battlefield sequences. There are in fact thirteen scenes in Act III and fifteen in Act IV. While some nineteenth and early twentieth century critics complained about the awkward structure of the play, recent interpretation has argued that this relentless movement in the middle of the play creates dramatic tension and reinforces the global scope of what is occurring on stage.

[Adapted from All Shakespeare]

Augustus and His Era:Visit here to know more about the early Roman empire.
The Roman World:This is a collection of sites on the Roman world, Italy, and Etruria, both ancient and modern, made by Victoria University of Wellington.

[Lawrence Alma-Tadema Source]
Play Synopsis:

Mark Antony is supposed to be ruling the eastern Roman Empire. Cleopatra, however, has all of his attention as the two carry on a torrid affair in Egypt. The death of his wife, Fulvia, and the threat of a war by Pompey bring him back to Rome. There is tension between Octavius and Antony; Octavius feels that Antony has left Rome vulnerable while dallying with Cleopatra. As a gesture of goodwill, Antony agrees to marry Octavia, the sister of Octavius, but this only postpones what is to be a growing rift.
As events transpire, Octavius (now Caesar) and Antony begin to clash with their armies. Octavia tries to repair the damage and get Octavius and Antony back together. To everyone's chagrin, however, Antony seizes the opportunity during Octavia's absence to flee back to Egypt¡Xand Cleopatra. Octavius is now doubly enraged, vowing to punish Antony for dishonoring his sister as well as Caesar. In the battle to come, Cleopatra sways Antony's mind into accepting a challenge from Caesar to a battle at sea; his aids try to tell him that his army has a better chance on land, but Antony will not listen. He will rue the decision.
At the height of the naval battle, Cleopatra orders her personal ship to leave the scene. Unfortunately, a lovestruck Antony orders his ship to follow her, and the battle at Actium becomes a Roman victory. Caesar rejects Antony's suit for peace, and instead attempts to split Antony and Cleopatra; Cleopatra, he decrees, will remain Queen of Egypt unmolested if she but kills Antony. Cleopatra refuses, and Caesar's army meets Antony's on land¡Xresulting in a victory for Antony. The two armies withdraw to resume the fight the next day.
When another Egyptian retreat decides the day for Caesar, Antony accuses Cleopatra of treachery and threatens her life. To save herself, she flees to her tomb and has her servants bring word that she has killed herself. This pushes Antony over the edge, and he falls on his own sword, mortally wounding himself. He lives long enough, however, for the servants to bring him to Cleopatra, and the two once again profess their love before Antony breathes his last. Caesar, upon hearing the news of Antony's death, grieves for the loss of his rival and onetime friend. To Cleopatra he promises mercy, although he intends on humiliating her as a war captive. Cleopatra, recognizing his aims, secures an asp hidden in a fruit basket and uses its venomous bite to kill herself. Caesar decrees that Antony and Cleopatra be buried together as a posthumous act of kindness.

[Quoted from Shakespeare Resource Center]

E-Text: Antony and Cleopatra: Entire Play
Study Guide:

[From Love-Story Home Page.]

1. Who is the protagonist of the play and why?
2. What is Antony's fatal flaw? Give four specific examples of how it leads to his downfall.
3. Fully describe Cleopatra's character and her relationship to Antony.
4. Why does Antony marry Octavia? Why is the marriage doomed from the beginning?

5. Compare and contrast the characters of Antony and Caesar?

6. What is Caesar's main goal in the play? What excuse does he use to move against Antony?
7. How and why does Caesar rid himself of Lepidus? What is the irony of Caesar's criticism of the weak Triumvir?
8. Why does Enobarbus grow disillusioned with Antony and eventually desert him? Why does he kill himself? What does his death foreshadow?  
9. When does the climax of the play occur? Why is it the climax?
10. Why is the play a tragedy?
11. Compare and contrast the worlds of Rome and Egypt?
12. How is the play unified in spite of its many settings and fast action?
13. What is the main theme of the play and how is it developed?
14. List the major historical truths presented in the play.

[Quoted from Monkey Notes]

[Mike Quick Source]
Literary Analysis & Critical Essays:
A sample MA student paper by Vivian Liao
A Comparative Exploration of Text and Source of of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra and Plutarch's The Life of Marcus Antonius
"The Tragedy of Imagination: Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra""
by Joyce Carol Oates
A list of essys: Shakespeare and the Internet
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[Lawrence Alma-Tadema 1883. Source]

Anthony and Cleopatra Chat & Discussion