Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
*Rome. Rome is seen in the play as the center of a highly ordered and established civilization with stately political and social values. In the first words of the play, set in Cleopatra’s palace, Antony is being judged harshly by his followers for ignoring his Roman duties in order to satisfy sensual pleasures. When a messenger from Rome arrives with news from Octavius, Antony dismisses the him, symbolizing his break with Rome. From the very first moments of the play, then, Shakespeare is juxtaposing the two cultures and forcing the audience into a complex assessment of their competing values. This conflict has been described in various ways, for example as a conflict between culture and barbarity, reason and passion, duty and desire, or decorum and hedonism. Plutarch, the source for Shakespeare’s story, clearly chooses sides in this conflict and sees Antony as a foolish old man, but Shakespeare remains uncommitted, suggesting value and limitations in both cultures. This leaves the thematic conflict richly open-ended and the rapidly shifting places that embody this thematic conflict serve as another reflection of the play’s great tension.
Cleopatra’s monument. The play ends in this mausoleum near Cleopatra’s Alexandria palace as she takes her own life after learning of Antony’s suicide at the end of act 4. The scope of the play’s action shrinks after act 3, scene 6, in which Rome is last used as a setting. Thereafter, the action begins moving eastward, contracting toward the more intimate setting of the tragic conclusion. The intimacy of Cleopatra’s monument is contrasted with the epic scope at the beginning of the play, but even here, with Antony close by in Cleopatra’s palace, Shakespeare emphasizes how distant the lovers are from each other. Cleopatra’s sequestration and initially false report of suicide leads to Antony’s real suicide. Then the two struggle, almost comically, to be near each other, as Antony’s body is hoisted up the monument walls for a final kiss. After he dies, Roman soldiers invade Cleopatra’s space and Rome and Egypt are finally merged, with Cleopatra a prisoner and in danger of being carried to Rome to be put on humiliating display as a trophy of war. In her own suicide, Cleopatra thwarts this plan and “marries” herself to Antony at last.