Antony And Cleopatra: Theme Analysis

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Antony Cleopatra, unlike many Shakespeare plays, is unique in that people can still relate to many of the issues it involves in their lives today.  Though a tragic love story, Antony Cleopatra is more about the power struggle that people face between their professional and their personal lives.  Antony, a major Roman political figure, found love and joy in the arms of the Queen of Egypt.  From that point on, he all but abandoned his responsibilities in Rome to remain with Cleopatra.  Thus, having to decide which is more important - work or play.

The major emotional struggle happens when Antony marries Caesar's sister Octavia.  The marriage took place for political reasons with Antony hoping to cement himself to his responsibilities.  The plan did not work however, and he was still caught in a struggle between Rome and Egypt.  In the first sea battle, Antony abandons his former life when he turns and chases Cleopatra's ship; a move which lost him many followers and his place as a leader of Rome.  This is the turning point in the play because it is when he makes a definite choice between the two worlds.  Afterwards, however, he still questions some of his actions, never truly knowing if he is doing the right thing. 

Cleopatra, too, in many parts of the play must make a choice between love and responsibility.  Twice, she flirts with the idea of turning over her lover to Caesar to gain power and inheritance not for herself, but for her children.  In the end, she cannot go through with the betrayal of Antony, and accepts the consequences of choosing to love.  Caesar, fortunately, does not have to face these decisions like the other two main characters do.  Because of this, although he was the inferior general, he comes out on top.  He could devote himself fully to his political concerns, thus enabling him to win the sole rulership of Rome. 

The question that remains in the audience's minds is who was the real winner of the story? Though history would mark Caesar as the winner because of his triumphs in battle and political power, Antony and Cleopatra know the decedent experience of love, which makes them too, winners.

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