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Free Study Guide-Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare-Book Notes
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CONFLICT

Protagonist

Mark Antony, one of the three Triumvirs of the Roman Empire, is the central character and protagonist of the play. The action of the plot charts Antony's increase in power and subsequent degeneration. Although he feels a duty to his country and his people, Antony falls passionately and foolishly in love with Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, who succeeds in destroying him. In order to bring peace between Caesar and Antony, the two rival Triumvirs, Caesar's sister, Octavia, marries Antony; but Antony deserts the marriage to pursue his love of Cleopatra. In the end, Caesar overcomes Antony's troops, and Antony kills himself.

Antagonist

Antony's antagonist is his uncontrollable passion for Cleopatra, which clouds his reason and causes him to desert his duties. Because of Antony's love for Cleopatra and desertion of Octavia, Caesar makes war on Cleopatra and Antony, defeating their forces at Actium. When Antony hears a false rumor that Cleopatra is dead, he commits suicide.


Climax

The tragic action rises to a crescendo in the third act. Antony knows that he should not fight Octavius Caesar by sea, but because of his love for Cleopatra, he gives in to her persuasion. Unfortunately, he does not possess any military strategy or adequate troops for a naval engagement. As a result, he is defeated by Caesar, which causes him to lose the last of his self- respect. From this point forward, it is clearly evident that his story will end tragically. In the end, he kills himself, thinking that Cleopatra is dead and feeling that he cannot live without her.

Outcome

The play ends in complete tragedy. Because of his foolish and uncontrolled passion for the Queen of Egypt, both Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide, leaving Caesar as the sole, supreme leader of the Roman world.

Note: Generally Antony is assumed to be the sole protagonist of the play. Some critics argue, however, that since Antony dies in Act IV, Antony and Cleopatra are co-protagonists, both suffering from clouded judgement caused by their passion for each other.

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