Antony and



William Shakespeare


Discussion Questions

1. Who are Philo and Demetrius? What are their concerns? These characters appear only in the first scene of Shakespeare's play. Why do you think Shakespeare includes them, and then gives them no further role?

2. What does Shakespeare indicate about love in the first view he gives us of Antony and Cleopatra?

3. Why is Antony attracted to Cleopatra, and Cleopatra to him?

4. Why does Cleopatra insist on being included in the battle?

5. Why does Antony decide to fight at sea?

7. What is the political world like at the time of Antony and Cleopatra? What are the differences between Rome and Egypt, as Shakespeare presents them in this play?

8. To what extent are the Roman way of life and standards of excellence attractive to Antony? To what extent do they account for his actions in the play, and finally, for his suicide? Are there ways in which Antony's passions and deeds transcend, or even contradict, the Roman way of life
and its standards?

9. Why does Cleopatra take so many Romans as lovers? Why does she love Antony?

10. At what cost does Octavius offer the world "universal peace"?

11. In what ways is Antony superior to Octavius Caesar? Who is the nobler? Which is the greater Roman? Which is the greater man?

12. Is there a place for Antony in Rome? In Egypt? Is he correct in his suicide?

13. Is Enobarbus' death tragic? Is it as tragic as Antony's and Cleopatra's? What does this play indicate about Shakespeare's understanding of tragedy?

Paper Topics

1. Compare and contrast Antony's love of Cleopatra with that of Candaules' love of his wife. Should Antony heed Gyges' advice to "let each look on his own"?

2. Does Antony and Cleopatra's understanding-and deeds-of love have more in common with Agathon's view of Love or with Socrates'? Consider, for example, Antony's desire to be with Cleopatra after death, "where souls do couch on flowers"? Is there any evidence that Shakespeare would be critical of Antony and Cleopatra, as Socrates is of Agathon?

3. Imagine Hobbes writing a review of a performance of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Would he find that the play, for example, demonstrated truths about the passions and their dangers for political life, as he explained them in the Leviathan? Or would Hobbes find something in Shakespeare's play that qualified his work in that book?

Antony and Cleopatra Reading

Guide to unit 6

back to unit 6