Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra


William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra Themes

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Themes and Colors
Love, Pleasure, and Decadence Theme Icon
Honor, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Strategy, Manipulation, and Power Theme Icon
Messages, Warnings, and Omens Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Antony and Cleopatra, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Love, Pleasure, and Decadence

Antony and Cleopatra opens with a scene in which Antony professes his unfathomable love for Cleopatra and, while the play covers much of the political drama surrounding the crumbling of the Roman republic and creation of the Roman Empire under Octavius, it is also centrally about the romantic relationship between Antony and Cleopatra (after all, it’s not entitled Antony and Octavius). Antony tells Cleopatra that his love has no bounds, and often it certainly…

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Honor, Loyalty, and Betrayal

Antony and Cleopatra takes place at a time of serious political turmoil and civil strife, with leaders rising and falling, as Fulvia, Pompey, Lepidus, Octavius, Antony, and Cleopatra all jostle for political power. Thus, ordinary people, advisors, soldiers, and attendants are forced to decide who to follow and be loyal to. The leaders, meanwhile, must rely on the loyalty of their followers. It is when Antony's soldiers effectively desert that…

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Strategy, Manipulation, and Power

As various political players struggle for control over the crumbling Roman republic, most of the play’s characters attempt to strategize and manipulate their way to safety and power. Alliances shift throughout the play, as Antony and Octavius begin on the same side (against Pompey), before Octavius turns on Lepidus, and Antony and Octavius turn on each other. Lesser commanders must figure out their own strategies, as well. Enobarbus leaves Antony, hoping it will…

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Messages, Warnings, and Omens

Shakespeare’s tragedy is filled with messages and warnings; messengers and helpers come and go in both Rome and Egypt, bringing important news to major political players like Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavius. The play shows the importance of these intermediary characters who are necessary for the main characters’ plans to be carried out (and upon whom the plot of the play relies). But at the same time, the play shows the danger of…

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Gender Roles

Throughout the play, Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship transgresses the bounds of traditional gender roles. Cleopatra is powerful and manipulative, and Antony seems to become weaker and less decisive as he spends more time under her sway. His men worry that he is under the control of Cleopatra and his soldier Canidius tells a fellow soldier that because of this they are “women’s men.” In Act 2, Scene 5, Cleopatra mentions a time that she got…

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