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Mrs. Yates as Cleopatra, 1777

Antony and Cleopatra

Summary of William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra: Antony loves Cleopatra, but marries Caesar's sister so that they can be friends, but then leaves and goes to Cleopatra again. Caesar gets mad and everyone dies.

After the death of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire is ruled by three men: Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus.

Mark Antony commands the eastern Mediterranean, and has become infatuated with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. On hearing of the death of his wife, Fulvia, and the rebellion of Pompey against his fellow ruler Octavius, Antony is forced to leave for Rome with his friend Enobarbus.

In Rome, Antony and Octavius Caesar argue over the former's escapades in Egypt, and eventually decide that their friendship must be cemented by a political marriage between Antony and Octavia, Caesar's sister. Enobarbus refuses to believe that Antony will desert Cleopatra, and tells his Roman friends about the Egyptian court. The rulers, including Lepidus, make peace with the rebellious Pompey, who entertains them on his ship in the harbour. During the feast, Pompey refuses to allow his men to murder the triumvirate (Lepidus).

Cleopatra receives the news of Antony's marriage and, after a fit of rage and jealousy, she realises that Octavia offers no real romantic challenge. Antony and Octavia reach Athens when they learn that Caesar has revoked his peace treaty and attacked Pompey, as well as betraying the triumvirate agreement by imprisoning Lepidus. Octavia is sent back to Rome by Antony to try to renew peace. Antony himself goes on to Egypt to raise an army with Cleopatra. 

Caesar, disgusted by Antony's abandonment of Octavia, declares war on Antony and Cleopatra. Despite Enobarbus's advice, Antony decides to fight at sea at Actium. In the battle, Cleopatra's ships flee from the Roman fleet and Antony is defeated. Humiliated by his love for Cleopatra, Antony eventually chooses to fight Caesar on land. Fearing many portents and Antony's supposedly inevitable defeat, his army begin to lose faith in their leader. Enobarbus deserts Antony and defects to Caesar's army, leaving his old friend saddened rather than angry. Enobarbus is overcome with guilt for his betrayal of Antony and dies alone in his grief. 

At the battle, Cleopatra's men flee, abandoning Antony. Fearing Antony's anger,  Cleopatra takes refuge in her monument. When Antony fears that Cleopatra has betrayed him to Caesar, she sends false word that she is dead, hoping to win over his affections once more. Antony is devastated by the news, and resolves to die himself. He falls onto his sword and is mortally wounded. At this point, Cleopatra's messenger goes to inform him that the queen is still alive, and finds him dying alone. Antony is then taken up into the monument by Cleopatra and her waiting women, and he dies in Cleopatra's arms.

Cleopatra cannot bear the thought of being a prisoner of the Romans, and when Caesar believes that she is now his prisoner, she has a countryman bring her poisonous snakes in a basket. Her waiting women dress her in state robes before she lays an asp on her breast and dies, along with her women. Caesar, upon discovering the bodies, orders that Antony and Cleopatra be buried together. Now unhindered in his quest for Egypt, and conveniently lacking in political foes, Caesar returns to Rome and becomes Emperor.

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