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Antony and Cleopatra Book Notes

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Antony and Cleopatra Plot Summary

Mark Antony has been spending his time in Egypt with his mistress, Cleopatra, and neglecting his duties as part of the triumvirate of Rome. His wife, Fulvia, dies, and Octavius Caesar and Lepidus send word that he must return immediately to help them against the threat of Sextus Pompeius, who is building a very strong navy. Despite the assurances by Domitus Enobarbus that Antony is obviously meant to stay in Egypt with Cleopatra, he decides to leave nonetheless. When he tells Cleopatra that he must leave, she becomes upset and accuses him of not caring about her; he informs her of Fulvia's death, which she then uses to prove that he is fickle and will treat her death as lightly as he treated his wife's. She tells him he should leave, and he does, assuring her that his heart will stay with her. When he is gone, she sends him messengers every day to prove the scope of her love.

Pompey is building his forces to defeat the triumvirate, and is pleased that Antony is out of the way, being in Egypt. He receives news that Antony is going to Rome, and he hopes that Antony and Caesar will fight with each other, leaving them more vulnerable for him to take over. When Antony returns to Rome, he finds that his relationship with Caesar is very unstable; both his wife and his brother had made wars against Caesar, and the only way to make peace is to marry Caesar's sister, Octavia, to forge a family relationship. Agrippa and Maecenas talk with Enobarbus about Cleopatra; he tells them that she is so unique and wonderful that there is no way Antony could stay faithful to Octavia. When Cleopatra receives the news about the marriage to Octavia, she is outraged and beats the messenger, then sends for word on what Octavia is like, to reassure herself that she is a better woman. Caesar and Antony have offered Pompey the chance to be their ally, promising if they fight they will win, and he somewhat reluctantly accepts their offer. All of the men celebrate this new alliance.

Pacorus, the son of Orodes, the King of Parthia, has been killed in order to revenge the death of Marcus Crassus. Tensions mount between Antony and Caesar, they fight against each other, and Antony goes back to rule with Cleopatra in Egypt. Caesar and Lepidus defeat Pompey, breaking the alliance, and Caesar puts Lepidus in prison. Octavia goes to Caesar, torn between her husband and her brother, and she is informed that Antony is living with his mistress, when she thought he was in Athens. She joins her brother, and Caesar challenges Antony to a sea battle, for which Antony is not prepared, but fights nonetheless. He employs sixty of Cleopatra's ships; in battle they are overpowered, her ships flee, and Antony follows dishonorably. He must now appease Caesar. In order to keep her kingdoms, Cleopatra tells Thidias, a messenger sent by Caesar, that she was cajoled into helping Antony out of fear. When Antony hears of this he beats the messenger, and then he and Cleopatra reconcile and he promises her that the next day he will battle Caesar again and win.

Enobarbus leaves Antony to go to Caesar's side, as it is evident who has the advantage, but his guilt overpowers him and he commits suicide because he cannot live with his disloyalty to Antony. The land battle between Antony and Caesar at first seems to be to Antony's advantage, but then Caesar attacks by sea and many of Antony's men go over to Caesar's side, ending in a victory for Caesar. Antony blames Cleopatra for betraying him, and wishes her dead. She is heartbroken by his accusation and pretends to be dead to see how he will react. Upon hearing of her death, Antony tries to kill himself by falling on his sword, but he does not die right away; he is brought to Cleopatra, having heard too late that she is truly alive, and he dies in her arms, while she proclaims how honorable he was.

Caesar attempts to capture Cleopatra alive to make a show of his victory over her, but she explains her situation to Dolabella, one of Caesar's followers, who takes pity on her and arranges for her to commit suicide as she desires. A clown enters her chamber before she is to be taken away by Caesar, bringing a basket of figs in which there is a poisonous asp which Cleopatra uses to kill herself. Caesar finds her dead, along with her attendants, and arranges to have a funeral for her, burying her next to Antony, before returning to Rome.

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