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 get him a better chance at prospering with Octavius, while Menas hopes to leave Pompey in order to attain more power for himself. And Antony’s general Ventidius decides not to pursue the fleeing Parthians so as not to accomplish too much and rival Antony’s authority.
All the characters in the play must plan their actions carefully, as any wrong move can result in making the wrong enemy. All this strategy and manipulation trickles down into the personal and domestic spheres, as well. Cleopatra often tries to manipulate Antony (sending him a false message that she is dead, for example, in order to see his reaction), and Antony strategically marries Octavius’ sister Octavia. From the battlefield to the bedroom, Antony and Cleopatra is full of plotting characters striving against one another. Octavius can be seen as the one character whose plans actually come to fruition, but Cleopatra is able to thwart him with one last stratagem: by ending her own life she takes control over her fate and refuses to be taken as a prisoner of war. Octavius may have defeated her in battle, but Cleopatra’s clever plotting allows her to find some form of victory in defeat, some power amid powerlessness.
Strategy, Manipulation, and Power ThemeTracker
Strategy, Manipulation, and Power Quotes in Antony and Cleopatra
See where he is, who's with him, what he does:
I did not send you: if you find him sad,
Say I am dancing; if in mirth, report
That I am sudden sick: quick, and return.
My powers are crescent, and my auguring hope
Says it will come to the full. Mark Antony
In Egypt sits at dinner, and will make
No wars without doors: Caesar gets money where
He loses hearts: Lepidus flatters both,
Of both is flatter'd; but he neither loves,
Nor either cares for him.
To hold you in perpetual amity,
To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts
With an unslipping knot, take Antony
Octavia to his wife; whose beauty claims
No worse a husband than the best of men;
Whose virtue and whose general graces speak
That which none else can utter. By this marriage,
All little jealousies, which now seem great,
And all great fears, which now import their dangers,
Would then be nothing: truths would be tales,
Where now half tales be truths: her love to both
Would, each to other and all loves to both,
Draw after her.
Where is he now?
My lord, in Athens.
No, my most wronged sister; Cleopatra
Hath nodded him to her. He hath given his empire
Up to a whore; who now are levying
The kings o’ the earth for war.
From Antony win Cleopatra: promise,
And in our name, what she requires; add more,
From thine invention, offers: women are not
In their best fortunes strong; but want will perjure
The ne’er touch’d vestal: try thy cunning, Thidias;
Make thine own edict for thy pains, which we
Will answer as a law.
Mine honesty and I begin to square.
The loyalty well held to fools does make
Our faith mere folly: yet he that can endure
To follow with allegiance a fall'n lord
Does conquer him that did his master conquer
And earns a place i' the story.
Come hither, Proculeius. Go and say,
We purpose her no shame: give her what comforts
The quality of her passion shall require,
Lest, in her greatness, by some mortal stroke
She do defeat us; for her life in Rome
Would be eternal in our triumph: go,
And with your speediest bring us what she says,
And how you find of her.
Sole sir o' the world,
I cannot project mine own cause so well
To make it clear; but do confess I have
Been laden with like frailties which before
Have often shamed our sex.