Important moments in Antony and Cleopatra and some significant facts about the play and its characters.

Antony and Cleopatra, 1953 directed by Glen Byam Shaw. Peggy Ashcroft as Cleopatra. Michael Redgrave as Antony.
Photo by Angus McBean © RSC – Image Licensing


Every director will choose their own key moments in Antony and Cleopatra depending on how they are interpreting the text. Here we've listed some important moments in the order in which they appear in the play.

Act 1 Scene 3
Having learned that his wife, Fulvia, is dead and that Sextus Pompeius is plotting against the triumvirate, Antony tells Cleopatra that he must return to Rome.

Act 1 Scene 4
In Rome, Octavius and Lepidus discuss Antony's 'unmanly' behaviour when in Cleopatra's company.

Act 2 Scene 2
To prevent a quarrel and to more closely ally himself with Octavius, Antony agrees to marry Octavia, sister to Octavius. Enobarbus delivers his famous speech in praise of Cleopatra.

Act 2 Scene 6
As peace is celebrated between the members of the triumvirate and Pompey, Enobarbus predicts that Antony will soon abandon Octavia for Cleopatra, and thus create dissension between himself and Octavius.

Act 3 Scene 5
Octavia returns to Rome to negotiate a truce between her husband and her brother, but there learns that Antony and Cleopatra have been reunited in Alexandria and have crowned themselves and their children.

Act 3 Scene 10
Antony, having ignored advice, fights Octavius at sea. The Egyptian navy flees and he and his forces are defeated.

Act 3 Scene 13
Octavius sues for peace with Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra quarrel and Octavius's messenger is beaten. Enobarbus decides he must leave Antony's service.

Act 4 Scene 12
Having previously defeated Octavius in a land battle, Antony is again defeated at sea. He blames Cleopatra.

Act 4 Scene 14
In grief over Cleopatra's supposed death, Antony plans a noble Roman suicide but fails, leaving himself severely wounded.

Act 4 Scene 15
The injured Antony is taken to Cleopatra's monument and dies there. Cleopatra mourns for what her deception has brought about and plans her own suicide.

Act 5 Scene 2
Wearing her finest robes and crown, Cleopatra commits suicide. Octavius arranges that she and Antony will be buried together.


  • Cleopatra was not in fact Egyptian but a member of the Macedonian Greek family, the Ptolemies, and had been married to her younger brother, Ptolemy III. 

  • Cleopatra had previously been mistress to Julius Caesar, and had born him a son. She also had three children, including twins, by Mark Antony 

  • Shakespeare's source for the story is the Life of Marcus Antonius in Plutarch's Lives of the Most Noble Grecians and Romans translated by Thomas North in 1579. 

  • Legend tells us that the first meeting of Antony and Cleopatra took place when she had herself carried to him wrapped in a carpet which was unfurled in front of him. 

  • Octavius Caesar went on to establish a peace that endured throughout his long reign and became Augustus Caesar in 27 BC. 

  • He is the Emperor whose decree led to Joseph taking his pregnant wife Mary to Bethleham to be recorded for a census. 

  • Until the Restoration in 1660, Cleopatra would have been performed on stage by a young male actor. 

  • Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor appeared in a famously sumptuous film adaptation called simply Cleopatra in 1963 - a film which was itself lampooned as Carry on Cleo the following year. 

  • The asp with which Cleopatra kills herself was sacred to the Egyptian royal family and was believed to deify those it struck. 

  • Cleopatra's death brought to an end the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt as Octavius killed Caesarion and took Antony's three children back to Rome in triumph. He annexed Egypt as part of the Roman empire. 

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