Octavia is Antony’s wife and Octavius’s sister. She is regarded as very beautiful and a model of virtuous Roman womanhood, but Antony nonetheless abandons her and their young children for his lover Cleopatra—a decision that sets off a power struggle between Antony and Octavius. However, Octavia is not merely a pawn in the conflict between her husband and brother. She is depicted as highly principled, honorable, and independent. For instance, she leaves the Roman camp without her brother’s permission and travels to the Egyptian court with her daughters Agrippina and Antonia, in order to try to persuade Antony to return to her and make peace with Octavius. She tells Antony to take Octavius’s terms, even if he later drops her again. Ventidius and Dollabella urge Antony to abandon Cleopatra and take back Octavia, pointing out her noble self-sacrifice: “you have ruined [her], / And yet she would preserve you.” Octavia’s position demonstrates her concern for her honor as a wife above all else. Although she knows that Antony doesn’t love her, she is willing to live in a sham marriage for appearance’s sake. Ultimately, however, this same concern with honor is what prevents her from tolerating Antony’s continued passion for Cleopatra. Seeing that he is still obsessed with his former lover, Octavia tells Antony that she will leave him and go back to Octavius’s camp, since her honor cannot bear to have only “half” of Antony. In contrast to Cleopatra, then, Octavia is consistently motivated, not by love, but by concern with her honor.
Octavia Quotes in All For Love
The All For Love quotes below are all either spoken by Octavia or refer to Octavia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of All For Love published in 2004.).
Act 3 Quotes
For I can ne’er be conquered but by love,
And you do all for duty.
Act 4 Quotes
Nature meant me
A wife, a silly, harmless, household dove,
Fond without art, and kind without deceit;
But Fortune, that has made a mistress of me,
Has thrust me out to the wide world.
Octavia Character Timeline in All For Love
The timeline below shows where the character Octavia appears in All For Love. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...place and within twenty-four hours. As a result, he has used artistic license in making Octavia, Antony’s Roman wife, come to Egypt and (unhistorically) meet Cleopatra. He defends himself for creating... (full context)
...women begin competing to see who has suffered the most in their relationships with Antony. Octavia accuses Cleopatra of stealing Antony’s wife, children, reputation, power, and political standing. Cleopatra says that... (full context)
...Dollabella claims that he loves her “no more than friendship will allow.” Antony counters that Octavia, Alexas, and Ventidius all saw them together and have confirmed that they were flirting. Cleopatra... (full context)