Antony and Cleopatra: Synopsis

November 1–18, 2012


After the defeat of Julius Caesar’s assassins at the battle of Philippi, the power over the Roman Empire rests with three people: Octavius Caesar, Aemelius Lepidus, and Mark Antony. Antony departs for the Eastern Empire, where he falls in love with Cleopatra, the fascinating queen of Egypt.  The young general Pompey, bent on avenging the death of his father, Pompey Magnus, prepares to go to war with Rome. Antony, against the wishes of his beloved Cleopatra, returns to Italy to face Pompey and try to repair his fraying relations with Octavius.  Pompey fears Antony’s genius as a general and presses for peace.  Octavius overcomes his own fear of Antony, and in an attempt to cement their friendship marries him to his sister Octavia. Cleopatra, when she hears of the marriage, is consumed with jealously.  Bunt Antony soon deserts his new wife and returns to his queen.  This familial insult gives Octavius an excuse to attack Egypt.  After several indecisive battles he is the final victor, and Antony, in despair, attempts to commit suicide by falling on his own sword.

Cleopatra has taken refuge in her mausoleum, where Antony is brought to her and dies in her arms.  The queen now fears that she will be captured by Octavius and paraded through the streets of Rome.  Determined to escape this humiliation, she procures some snakes hidden in a basket of fruit.  With the help of their venomous bites, she puts an end to her life.

From Shakespeare Genealogies by Vanessa James