All For Love: More Sentiment than Tragedy Summary & Study Guide

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All For Love: More Sentiment than Tragedy Summary & Study Guide Description

All For Love: More Sentiment than Tragedy Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Dryden, John. All for Love, More Sentiment than Tragedy. Los Angeles: Project Gutenberg, 2009. Online.

In John Dryden's 1777 play, All for Love, or the World Well Lost, at the opening of Act I: Scene 1, it is Mark Antony's birthday. He has not seen his lover, Cleopatra, for some time. Cleopatra's eunuch, Alexas, worries he may regret their affair. If he does, he may return to the Roman Empire, join his formal rival, Caesar Octavius' army, and invade Egypt. Alexas does not approve of his mistress' affair, but he believes keeping Mark Antony in Egypt keeps Egypt stable.

Ventidius, a friend and soldier who formerly served under Mark Antony, also disapproves of the love affair. He believes lust keeps Mark Antony from behaving as befits a noble soldier. He has come to convince Mark Antony to improve his reputation, either by allying with his former rival, Caesar Octavius, or by battling him and claiming the Roman Empire. He has an army for Mark Antony to lead. Mark Antony resists his friend's maligning of his reputation and his love. He finally agrees he will leave Cleopatra. He will take the army and raid Caesar Octavius' camp. He says he cannot see Cleopatra before he leaves, as his desire for her will destroy his resolve.

In Act II: Scene 1, Cleopatra, acting on Alexas's counsel, gives Mark Antony jewelry as a symbol of her love. It is a ruby bracelet. The rubies symbolize bleeding hearts, for hers will be bleeding while he is away. When she ties the bracelet to Mark Antony's arm, she evokes the romantic and sexual bond between them. He says he will raid Caesar Octavius' camp, but he will return to her afterward. Note that the whole play takes place in Alexandria, Egypt. Any other locations are offstage. The raid is a victory. Reunited, the loves decide they would rather die together than live apart. Ventidius and Alexas are foes, because each man needs the lovers to behave differently to protect his land.

In Act III: Scene 1, Ventidius brings visitors to Egypt. He hopes they will remind Mark Antony he is a noble man and an admired warrior. The first, Dolabella, is Mark Antony's closest friend and fellow soldier, whom Ventidius claims could speak to Caesar Octavius in Mark Antony's favor. Though Mark Antony is pleased to see him, the two have been estranged. Formerly, Mark Antony refused to speak with Dolabella after Dolabella admitted his attraction to Mark Antony's lover, Cleopatra. Dolabella says his desire for the queen was youthful folly. He tells Mark Antony his love, too, is folly, though it is less excusable because he is no longer useful.

Mark Antony's other visitor is someone who has never shared his love for Cleopatra, his lawful wife, Octavia. She says she no longer loves Mark Antony, because he has neglected his duties as a husband and a father. However, she will honor him as a husband if he returns to the Roman Empire with her, as their marriage brings sociopolitical stability to the land. [She is the sister of Mark Antony's rival, the Roman Empire's current emperor, Caesar Octavius.] She promises she will not let Caesar Octavius humiliate him if he returns to Rome. He resists her, until she tells their daughters, Alexandra and Antonia to cling to their father until he remembers his duty to them. He agrees to leave Cleopatra. Again, he says he cannot see her before leaving, as his desire will overcome him. This decision to leave is the climax of the play, as this is the first time the consequences of that choice will go outside Cleopatra's palace walls.

In Scene IV: Scene 1, Mark Antony instructs Dolabella to take his leave of Cleopatra for him. Dolabella is reluctant to obey, as he fears his sensitive nature will make him vulnerable to Cleopatra's despair, but Mark Antony insists. He tells Dolabella exactly what to say, his words increasingly tender. Dolabella, still stunned by Cleopatra's beauty, declares love to her himself. Acting on Alexas' counsel, she flirts with him, hoping to reawaken Mark Antony's love by making him jealous. Both Dolabella and Cleopatra stay faithful to Mark Antony, but Ventidius sees them while they are still in a suggestive pose. He tells Mark Antony, who realizes he loves Cleopatra when he becomes jealous. He refuses to leave Egypt, sending Octavia back to the Roman Empire. However, he banishes Cleopatra and Dolabella for their (perceived) unfaithfulness to him. As she does every time he declares they must part, Cleopatra says she will commit suicide if Mark Antony forsakes her. Hoping to win her lover's heart again, Alexas tells him in Act V: Scene 1 that the queen is already dead.

Though they are not seen onstage again, Dolabella and Octavia presumably notify Caesar Octavius of Mark Antony's decision to remain in Egypt. Knowing no treaty with his former rival is now necessary or possible, Caesar Octavius invades Egypt. Neither he nor his forces appear onstage, though their actions are described. The Egyptian navy mutiny, joining Caesar Octavius. Believing his life is worthless if he must live without Cleopatra, Mark Antony begs Ventidius to kill him. Ventidius kills himself rather than obey the order. Alone, Mark Antony falls on his sword. Cleopatra finds him dying. Certainty of her faithfulness renews his love for her, as certainty of his devotion renews hers for him. Once Mark Antony dies, Cleopatra vows to end her own life. She instructs her handmaidens to dress her in bridal finery, as death will be her wedding to Mark Antony. Then she clasps a poisonous asp to her breast. Her handmaidens also let asps bite them, as they would rather commit suicide than be killed or captured by Caesar Octavius' forces. Many characters in this play die, though only Mark Antony and Cleopatra die for love.

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