Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Quotes

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1.

And you shall see in him The triple pillar of the world transformed Into a strumpet's fool.


Philo, Act 1, Scene 1

A conversation between Philo and Demetrius, two men in Antony's retinue, begins this play. Philo is saying Antony's love for Cleopatra has turned him into a fool and stripped him of his martial dignity. Antony, says Philo, is one of the three most powerful men in the world, but he's given up everything to dally with a whore. This comment reflects the Romans' opinion of Antony's behavior.

2.

Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch Of the ranged empire fall; here is my space.


Antony, Act 1, Scene 1

A Roman messenger has been trying to get Antony's attention, but Antony ignores him. Rome—indeed, the whole Roman Empire—means nothing to him now, he says. His place is here, with Cleopatra. Who cares about messengers? The attitude confirms Philo's observation that Antony cares for Cleopatra much more than for Rome.

3.

Eternity was in our lips and in our eyes.


Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 3

Cleopatra speaks this poignant line during a quarrel with Antony, who has just told her he must leave for Rome. She believes, or pretends to believe, his reason for the trip is to see his wife again. Here she reminds Antony of the blissful world they used to share before Antony turned into such a heartless deceiver.

4.

My salad days, When I was green in judgment, cold in blood.


Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 5

Cleopatra's maid has just reminded her she used to love Julius Caesar as much as she claims to love Antony now. Cleopatra scoffs at the comment, saying she was much too young to know what love was. "Salad days" is a wonderful example of Shakespeare's gift for coining new expressions.

5.

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety. Other women cloy The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry Where most she satisfies.


Enobarbus, Act 2, Scene 2

Antony's aide, Enobarbus, is trying to explain what makes Cleopatra uniquely lovable and continually desirable. His tribute not only describes Cleopatra perfectly; it also shows how closely Enobarbus shares Antony's thoughts. Many Roman soldiers despise Cleopatra, but Enobarbus understands why Antony is obsessed with her. Her unpredictable nature makes her continually appealing and leaves her lovers wanting more, unlike other women who become boring.

6.

Ah, this thou shouldst have done And not have spoke on 't! In me 'tis villainy ... Being done unknown, I should have found it afterwards well done, But must condemn it now.


Pompey, Act 2, Scene 7

Pompey must reject Menas's offer to kill Lepidus, Antony, and Caesar, not because he is appalled by it but because it would be dishonorable to condone it once he knows of it. Had Menas done the act, Pompey would have approved, but he is more concerned with the perception of honor than by the substance of it.

7.

Celerity is never more admired Than by the negligent.


Cleopatra, Act 3, Scene 7

A barbed rebuke to the speed at which Caesar crossed the Ionian Sea and captured the Greek city of Toryne, Cleopatra belittles Antony's enemies, also reflecting her own more Eastern inclinations that do not value hasty actions.

8.

Egypt, thou knew'st too well My heart was to thy rudder tied by th'strings And thou shouldst tow me after.


Antony, Act 3, Scene 11

The battle is over, and Rome has won. When Cleopatra's ship fled the fighting, Antony went after her, throwing his navy into confusion. He is remonstrating with her here: she should have realized he had no choice but to follow her, such is her power over him.

9.

I found you as a morsel cold upon Dead Caesar's trencher.


Antony, Act 3, Scene 13

These are the cruelest words Antony says to Cleopatra in the entire play. He has just found one of Caesar's messengers, Thidias, kissing Cleopatra's hand. Antony jumps to the conclusion Cleopatra has sold him out. Here he's calling her a leftover of Julius Caesar with whom she had a previous affair and a son.

10.

I am dying, Egypt, dying.


Antony, Act 4, Scene 15

In trying to commit suicide, Antony has managed only to give himself a mortal wound. This at least gives him a few minutes to say goodbye to Cleopatra in one of the most memorable farewell lines Shakespeare ever wrote.

11.

The odds is gone, And there is nothing left remarkable Beneath the visiting moon.


Cleopatra, Act 4, Scene 15

Antony has just died, and Cleopatra's world has been extinguished. Everything has become flat and ordinary, and every person is just like every other person—no one unique is left on Earth. The transience of the moon makes the world even more desolate.

12.

The breaking of so great a thing should make A greater crack.


Caesar, Act 5, Scene 1

Caesar has just learned Antony has committed suicide. Although they have been enemies recently, he is shocked by the news; he is shocked, too, that the world seems untouched by Antony's death. Why hasn't such a devastating loss caused the earth to crack open? The statement reveals Caesar's respect for Antony—to some degree, he shares in the lovers' feeling that they are larger than life and their actions are of divine significance—and prepares for somewhat of a change in his attitude toward Antony and Cleopatra.

13.

Antony Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness I'th'posture of a whore.


Cleopatra, Act 5, Scene 2

This is Cleopatra's terrible—and no doubt accurate—vision of what will happen if she stays alive. Caesar will bring her to Rome to show her off, and she'll be forced to watch as comic actors portray her and Antony for the delight of the crowds. "Boy my greatness" refers to the fact that in Shakespeare's day, boy actors were used to play women's parts; there were no female actors.

14.

Give me my robe. Put on my crown. I have Immortal longings in me. Now no more The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip.


Cleopatra, Act 5, Scene 2

Cleopatra expresses her acceptance of and control over her death in a particularly lyrical way by dressing and readying herself for immortality, as she views the afterlife. As much as she has loved ruling Egypt and the life she has led, now her eye is on being with her beloved forever, as she expects will happen.

15.

Now boast thee, death, in thy possession lies A lass unparalleled.


Charmian, Act 5, Scene 2

The snakes' poison has done its work, and Cleopatra is reunited with Antony in death. As Charmian closes the eyes of her mistress, she tells the world of the dead it has just acquired one of the most remarkable women in history. Charmian's use of the informal "lass" shows how much she loves the Queen and how close they were in life.

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