Antony and Cleopatra tells the story of a romance between two powerful lovers: Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, and Mark Antony, who rules the Roman Empire with Octavius Caesar and Lepidus.
Although he is needed in Rome, Antony lingers in Egypt with Cleopatra. He finally returns to Rome when Pompey, another military leader, tries to gain control of the empire. Once in Rome, Antony marries Caesar's sister Octavia.
After Pompey is defeated, Caesar imprisons Lepidus and turns on Antony. Octavia attempts to reconcile them, but fails. Antony returns to Cleopatra. He challenges Caesar at sea, adding Cleopatra's ships to his own. When she and her navy flee in mid-battle, Antony follows, abandoning his men.
Antony fails in a second battle at sea. At first, he blames Cleopatra and plans to kill her. He responds to false news of her death, however, by attempting suicide; fatally wounded, he reunites with her as he dies. Faced with Caesar's plans to humiliate her in Rome, Cleopatra kills herself with poisonous snakes.
Early printed texts
Antony and Cleopatra was printed for the first time in the 1623 First Folio, and that text is the source for all later editions of the play.
Picturing Antony and Cleopatra
As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Antony and Cleopatra is shown below, with links to more images available in our digital image collection.
More images of Antony and Cleopatra can be found in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)