Character Directory


Mark Antony(Marcus Antonius) (c. 82-30 B.C.) is an historical figure, and character in Julius Caesar and title character in Antony and Cleopatra. In the former play Antony leads the forces opposing the assassins of Julius Caesar, led by Marcus Brutus. In the latter, his love for Cleopatra leads to his downfall and the triumph of Octavius Caesar. 

In Julius Caesar, Antony is a courageous but crafty schemer whose political skill brings about a civil war. He helps demonstrate the social harm done by the powerful when they pursue their political ends. On the other hand, Antony, a strong personality, is an emotionally honest man and a much more sympathetic character than the virtuous, but cold and domineering, Brutes. Thus, Antony is both a positive and a negative figure who contributes greatly to the moral uncertainty that is at the heart of the play.  

Part of Antony's power in Julius Caesar comes from Shakespeare's careful presentation of him. In the first two Acts he is an unimportant figure who speaks only 33 words, but other characters refer to him numerous times and acknowledge his potential greatness. Most significantly, Cassius desires that Antony be killed along with Caesar (2.1.155-161). He calls him a 'shrewd contriver' and accurately predicts that if he lives he will be a difficult opponent. 

These references prepare us for Antony's sudden dominance of the play in Act 3. Even before he appears, the message he sends to Caesar's assassins (3.1. 126-137) establishes his strong personal style; a confident and powerful tone, both rhetorical and emotional. He soon arrives in person, and his initial response to the sight of Caesar's corpse is direct, uncalculated, heartfelt grief. Even in the presence of the murderers he does not hide his initial outburst. But he quickly turns to the future and takes control when he arranges to speak at Caesar's funeral. 

His boldness and fervor are both powerful and charming, but Antony disqualifies himself for our moral sympathy with the long soliloquy (3.1.254-275) in which he proposes to provoke a ghastly civil war—he describes the bloody slaughter of innocent people in detail—in order to avenge Caesar's death. Antony's fine human qualities—his courage and intelligence—bring about tragic consequences. 

Our ambivalence about Antony is furthered by his magnificent funeral oration (3.2.75-254), one of Shakespeare's most renowned passages. The speech's virtues—its bold rhetoric, its manipulative presentation of evidence, its appeal to pathos—seem to be clever but cheap effects intended to exploit the passions of the unthinking multitude. Certainly the speech has this effect, as Antony knew it would. But one realises that Antony does not seek to advance himself personally, and that he does not resort to slander against Brutus, or downright dishonesty. Antony is genuinely grieved by Caesar's death, and his expression of it, while extremely inflammatory, is not false.  He actually feels the way he brings his audience to feel. And we, too, are moved to share his emotion, even as we are aware of Brutus' virtues in contrast with the mayhem Antony intends. 

In 4.1, in an episode invented by Shakespeare to intensify our response to Antony, he bargains away the life of his nephew Publius. In contrast with Brutus' refusal to kill Antony, this action seems particularly detestable. Moreover, Antony also proposes to loot Caesar's bequest to the people, and his attitude to his ally Lepidus, whom he regards as no more than a tool, reinforces a sense that he is a cynical politician. As we approach the play's climax at the battle of Philippi, we are inclined to favor Antony's foes, Brutus and Cassius.   

However, at the close of the play when Antony delivers his famous eulogy of Brutus (5.5.68-75), he is very generous, and the balance of our sympathy is somewhat restored. Antony not only acknowledges Brutus' noble motive in killing Caesar, he also observes that Brutus was unable to recognize the true nature of his fellow conspirators. Thus, Antony emphasizes once more the play's chief theme: that evil can attend good intentions when established rulers are unseated. 

In Antony and Cleopatra, written about seven years later, Antony again contributes much to the ambivalence that characterizes the work. He is both a major political figure and the protagonist of a love story. As a result of his love, his position in the world undergoes great change. Initially, he wields immense power, ruling half the known world—a status that Shakespeare emphasizes with a persistent stream of political affairs. However, he willfully throws this position away for the sake of his passion—a passion whose self-indulgence is stressed by repeated descriptions of the opulent luxury of Cleopatra's court. 

As a soldier, Antony has proven himself a model of Roman military virtues—the Romans are dissatisfied with his conduct in Egypt precisely because they value his earlier record as a 'mate in empire, / Friend and companion in the front of war' (5.1.43-44), whose 'goodly eyes . . . Have glow'd like plated Mars' (1.1. 2-4). His earlier successes enacted in Julius Caesar are referred to several times, as in 3.2.54-56. Antony values himself for the same reasons and regrets his 'blemishes in the world's report' (2.3.5), but he is trapped in another role by his intense attraction to Cleopatra. Under her influence he has become a voluptuary; he has abandoned his duty for the 'love of Love, and her soft hours' (1.1.44) in Alexandria. 

As a lover, Antony offers us a glimpse of the transcendent nature of passion, a theme that Cleopatra will triumphantly present—in Antony's name—after his death. In 1.1 when Cleopatra, as the wily courtesan, demands that he declare how much he loves her, Antony states that love cannot be totaled, for lovers must 'find out new heaven, new earth' (1.1.17). Thus, it is he who introduces the theme of transcendence through love, and this desire is emphasized by hints of the book of Revelation that frame his story in the play. Indeed, 'new heaven, new earth' is very close to the biblical text (cf. Rev. 21:1)—much more familiar to 17th-century audiences than it is to today's—and the imagery that marks his death confirms the association: 'The star is fall'n. / And time is at his period' (4.14. 106-107 [cf. Rev. 8:10; 10:6]). 

Although Cleopatra disrupts Antony's loyalty to Rome, he is not totally committed to her either. Though he only tears himself from her with difficulty, in 1.3, he\returns to Rome and makes a political marriage to Octavia. Further, his love for Cleopatra is mingled with distrust—with considerable justification, for the Egyptian queen only transcends the behavior of a courtesan after Antony's death—and he dies presuming she will strike a bargain with his conqueror, Caesar. Moreover, he dies not as a tragically committed lover, but rather more like a clever Roman politician—albeit a loving one—when he offers Cleopatra advice on the politics of Caesar's court. Antony demonstrates that the ideals of love and power are both insufficient, thus manifesting the duality presented by the play as a whole. 

Shakespeare followed his source—Plutarch’s Lives— fairly closely in his account of the historical career of Marcus Antonius, with two exceptions. As already noted, the playwright invented Antony's callous sacrifice of a nephew, and in Antony and Cleopatra he placed Antony's involvement with Cleopatra earlier in the sequence of events; in Plutarch the love affair did not actually begin until after Antony's marriage to Octavia. Thus Shakespeare’s Antony seems indecisive about his loyalties, if not actually disloyal to Cleopatra as well as to Octavia. However the change may simply have been motivated by dramatic strategy, for it is obviously better to begin the play with the love affair than to introduce it in the middle, after the political situation has evolved.  However, in Antony and Cleopatra Shakespeare departed from the general impression of Antony left by Plutarch For the ancient historian, Antony was simply a moral failure, a man who threw away his life because he was unable to control his appetites. Antony's catastrophic moral collapse justified Caesar's war against him and his defeat was entirely for the good. Shakespeare however, made certain that we would see that Antony's vices contained germs of virtue, that his passion was firmly bound to a noble, if ill-defined, idea of love. 

Plutarch depended on pro-Caesar sources (see, e.g.,Messala) since the victorious Caesar permitted no others to survive, and thus his account is unfairly biased against Antony in the opinion of modern scholars The debauchery indulged in by Marcus Antonius was rather ordinary among the powerful Roman aristocrats of the time, and we cannot be certain that the political concessions he made to Cleopatra were in fact made at all, nor that they were as foolish as they seem in the sources. In any case, modern scholars generally agree that it was not his affair with Cleopatra that ruined Antonius, but rather his political and military failings—had he been more clever and ruthless, he might have enforced the maintenance of the joint rule that Caesar upset, or he might have triumphed himself, and ruled Rome.


Octavius (Gaius Octavius Caesar; Octavian) (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) is an historical figure and character in Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra. Antony’s ally against Brutus and Cassius. (The same figure appears as Caesar in .) Octavius is a cool, self-possessed, and efficient leader, whether hearing out Antony's criticisms of Lepidus in 4.1, claiming command of the right wing—properly Antony's—before the battle of Philippi in 5.1, or ordering the honorable burial of Brutus in 5.5. Though his part is small, it is boldly drawn and clearly anticipates the briskly calculating victor of the later play.

Shakespeare captures something of the personality of the historical Octavius but ignores the events of his life for the most part. In his will, Julius Caesar formally adopted Caius Octavius—the grandson of his sister—and made him the heir to his name and three-quarters of his immense fortune. (In legally accepting this inheritance after Caesar's murder, Octavius changed his name to Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and to English-speaking historians he is generally known as Octavian from this time until his assumption of the title Augustus in 27 B.C. However, Shakespeare was probably unaware of this distinction, and the character is called Octavius throughout Julius Caesar.) Octavius, who had been a physically frail child, was a 19-year-old student in Athens when Caesar died. When he returned to Italy to claim his inheritance, he immediately asserted himself politically but was not taken seriously at first. However, the name of Caesar was a powerful one, and he was soon at the head of an army of the pro-Caesar forces assembling to combat the assassins.

Unlike in Julius Caesar, Octavius was a rival of Antony's from the outset, and their alliance—joining with Lepidus in the Triumvirate—was sealed only after 18 months of antagonism that approached full scale war. While his political acumen was considerable, Octavius was still inclined to illness and was not a competent military man; at Philippi he was notably unsuccessful, and the defeat of Brutus and Cassius was largely the work of Antony. However, Octavius was soon to assume the leadership of much of the Roman world—the situation with which Antony and Cleopatra opens—and his cool efficiency in the closing lines of Julius Caesar effectively foreshadows this achievement.


Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (d. 13 B.C.) is an historical figure and character in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Lepidus is a member of the Triumvirate, the three-man governing committee that consists of Lepidus, Octavius, and Mark Antony. The Triumvirate rules Rome in the aftermath of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Octavius imprisons Lepidus and then fights Antony for sole control of the Empire. In both plays Lepidus is a markedly weaker figure than his colleagues, and their casual dominance of him helps establish an impression of Roman power politics that is important in each work.

A minor character in Julius Caesar, Lepidus appears only once, in 4.1, when the Triumvirs decide on a list of political enemies that must be arrested and executed as part of their campaign against Brutus and Cassius. After a brief exchange, Antony sends Lepidus on an errand and then belittles him to Octavius. He calls him 'a slight unmeritable man' (4.1.12) and a 'barren-spirited fellow' (4.1.36), and says he does not deserve a position as ruler. He compares him to an ass or horse, whose usefulness is limited and who will be turned out to pasture when he has fulfilled his role. Lepidus does not reappear in the play, and Antony's opinion of him seems appropriate. This episode may deepen our impression of Antony as a cynical political manipulator, or, may justify his boldness in seizing leadership in a power vacuum. In either view, Lepidus serves as a foil to sharpen our sense of Antony. In Antony and Cleopatra Lepidus is similarly weak, though he plays a more prominent role in affairs. He is dominated by Caesar as the two confer on Antony's absence, in 1.4. In 2.4 he pointlessly urges reconciliation between Antony and Caesar, who are already intent on it, and he has little to say once negotiations are underway. He is again a minor player in the talks with Pompey in 2.6, and at the subsequent banquet he is the butt of a humiliating joke as he has been pressured into drinking too much. He makes a fool of himself and finally must be carried away—in pointed contrast to Caesar, who ends the party with a complaint about the ill effects of wine. The episode is comical, but even a Servant recognizes its significance for Lepidus' position in high politics, saying, 'To be called into a huge sphere, and not to be seen to move in't, are the holes where eyes should be . . .' (2.7.14-15). Lepidus disappears from the play at this point, though his fate is later reported: Caesar has accused him of treason and imprisoned him 'till death enlarge his confine' (3.5.11-12). Once again, Lepidus provides an example of the necessity for sharp wits and hard morals in the world of power politics, though here the contrast reflects more on Caesar than on Antony. 

The historical Lepidus was indeed a lesser figure than his colleagues, though Shakespeare exaggerated this to emphasize the brutal competition of Roman politics. Lepidus was from a traditionally powerful Roman family. He supported Julius Caesar in his rise to power, and in the aftermath of Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C. he naturally allied himself with Antony. By chance, he commanded troops in the vicinity of Rome at the time, and he was able to control the city. It was at this point that he probably held as much real power as he ever would. In Julius Caesar, events are telescoped; the Triumvirate only came together after an 18-month period, during which Lepidus was courted by Antony and Octavius, and by Brutus and Cassius. Upon the formation of the Triumvirate Lepidus was given control of Italy and Gaul, but soon Caesar took over these important commands and Lepidus was shifted to Africa, also important but more remote. From this base, Lepidus assisted-though only slightly—in the defeat of Pompey's forces in Sicily by Caesar's general, Agrippa, in 35 B.C., soon after the events of Act 2 of Antony and Cleopatra. However when Lepidus attempted to override Agrippa once the victory was assured, Caesar daringly entered Lepidus' camp, unarmed, and demanded ""surrender to arrest. Lepidus' basic weakness was disliked by his own troops, and they seized him. He was forced to publicly plead for mercy, after which he was formally ousted from the Triumvirate. His treatment was better than is implied in Shakespeare, however. He was permitted to retain his post as Pontifex Maximus—the chief clergyman of the state religion—and was mercifully exiled to a comfortable retreat where he lived out his life.


Pompey (Sextus Pompeius) (d. 35 B.C.) Historical figure and character in Antony and Cleopatra, a rebel against the co-leaders of Rome, Octavius Caesar, Lepidus, and Mark Antony. Pompey's threat spurs Antony to action when he is luxuriating with Cleopatra in Act 1, but the rebel displays his weakness in Act 2. In 2.6 he negotiates a truce with the Roman leaders, but the remarks of his follower Menas make clear that he is foolish not to continue his rebellion while he is in a strong position. In 2.7 he refuses Menas' suggestion that he murder his opponents during the feast that celebrates the truce. Pompey is unwilling to seem dishonorable and lets the opportunity go by. Menas observes that 'Who seeks and will not take, when once 'tis offer'd, / Shall never find it more' (2.7.82-83), and decides to abandon his alliance with this weak leader. Pompey is not seen again in the play, but we hear of his fate. After being defeated by the forces of Lepidus and Caesar he retreats to Antony's territory where he is murdered, as is reported in 3.5. Pompey's career offers a case study in the cold realities of Roman politics and war. He cannot win because he is not unscrupulous enough and he lacks good sense. No vestiges of the ancient Roman concept of honor survive, and only a cool and unsentimental manipulator. It is in this context that we must weigh their conduct of Antony and the triumph of Caesar.  

Antony surveys the rebel's strength in 1.2 and outlines Pompey's background. He is continuing a rebellion originated by his father—a famous and popular leader of an earlier generation—and he therefore commands a dedicated following. This is an accurate assessment of the historical Pompeius Sextus, whose father, Pompey the Great (106-48 B.C.), was one of the major figures of early Roman history. He was the defeated opponent of Julius Caesar, as is mentioned several times in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The renown of Pompey the Great was such that Shakespeare could mention him in three non-Roman plays (Henry V, 2 Henry VI, Love's Labour's Lost) and name a comic character after him in Measure for Measure, which presumes that audiences would still know of him after 1,700 years. Pompeius Sextus I fought with his father's forces, and after their defeat—and Pompey the Great's murder—in 48 B.C., he reorganized the rebellion around a naval force, which he; centered first in Spain and later in Sicily. After Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C., Pompey continued to fight against Caesar's successors, though as part of his policy he briefly supported Antony against Octavius! Caesar not long before the period of the play. The peace of Misenum, enacted in 2.6, was negotiated in 39 B.C. but did not last long. Caesar attacked Pompey the next year and totally defeated him in 36 B.C. The loser retreated to Asia Minor and attempted to reestablish himself but was captured and killed by Antony's lieutenant, probably on Antony's orders,) though Shakespeare protects his hero's honor by having EROS report his distress at the execution, in 3.5.18-19.


Enobarbus (Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus) (d. 31B.C.) Historical figure and character in Antony and Cleopatra, Antony’s chief lieutenant who later deserts him and joins Octavius Caesar. Antony's closest friend and adviser through Acts 1-3, Enobarbus abandons his leader when he perceives, in 3.13, that Antony's involvement with Cleopatra has led to inevitable defeat. However, when he learns of Antony's sympathetic response to the betrayal, Enobarbus feels terrible pangs of guilt and declares that he will 'go seek / Some ditch, wherein to die' (4.6.37-38). In 4.9 a Sentry and his Watchmen listen as Enobarbus praises Antony and prays for death, then they see him collapse and die. Enobarbus realises that he was wrong to permit good sense to overrule loyalty, for by being prudent he has broken his own heart. The episode foreshadows Cleopatra's final transcendence, and demonstrates that the power of love can invalidate questions of military and political success. In fact, Enobarbus' betrayal is loving, for it is clear that he leaves Antony because he cannot bear to witness his leader's slide into weak-willed failure. Enobarbus thus offers another complex angle on the play's themes of love and power. 

Enobarbus is a wise and witty figure before his crisis draws him under. He frequently offers frank, sardonic comments on the other characters and fills some of the functions of a Chorus. For instance, his mockery of Lepidus, in 3.2, satirizes the dishonesty of Roman politics. On the other hand, his persistent criticism of Antony's love affair helps establish the point of view of the rigorously disciplined Rome, as opposed to the pleasure-oriented world of Cleopatra's court. Enobarbus rises to fine poetry, as in his famous description of the first meeting of Antony and Cleopatra—'The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne / Burn'd on the water . ..' (2.2.191 ff.), but he is more often a gruff veteran of the civil wars who jests about the conflict's ups and downs and feels comradeship with his onetime and future enemies. His soldier's humor is well developed and provides a significant portion of the play's comic spirit, an important element in Shakespeare's dramatic strategy. 

The historical Domitius Ahenobarbus, as he was called, came from an important Roman political and military family. He fought for Pompey the Great (father of the character in Antony and Cleopatra) against Julius Caesar and was later convicted of participating in Caesar's murder in 44 B.C. He commanded a naval force for Brutus at Phillipp in 42 B.C., though he does not appear in Julius Caesar. After Philippi, he established himself as a warlord. He controlled the Adriatic Sea with his fleet and issued coins bearing his portrait. In 40 B.C. he allied himself with Antony. He opposed Cleopatra's participation in the war against Caesar, and in 31 B.C. he changed sides, as in the play, but he did it just before the battle of Actium, rather than afterwards. Shakespeare knew this from his source, Plutarch, but he preferred that his character be a basically loyal subordinate who only leaves when Antony's failings have made defeat inevitable. Ahenobarbus, on the other hand, deserted when his services must still have seemed valuable to his new master. However, he immediately became too sick to command troops, and he died soon after the battle.


Ventidius (1), Publius (c. 90-38 B.C.) is an historical figure and minor character in Antony and Cleopatra, a Roman general. In 2.3 Ventidius is sent by Mark Antony to put down a rebellion in Parthia; in 3.1, he has accomplished his task. He appears with Silius, who encourages him to pursue the fleeing Parthians and conquer all of Mesopotamia. Ventidius replies with a lesson in military politics: he will not attempt to do as well against the Parthians as he might, for if he does too well, he may seem to show up his superior, Antony, who may seek vengeance and destroy his career.  These remarks stress the cynicism demanded by the Roman world of politics, a cool and unemotional calculation that Antony rejects in his infatuation with Cleopatra. 

The historical Ventidius was famous in his own day for his extraordinary rise in society amid the chronic turbulence of the time. As an infant he had been enslaved, for his family—from a pre-Roman tribe—had been involved in the last attempted revolt against Roman dominance in Italy. After serving as a Roman soldier, he became a contractor of military supplies. Like many defeated Italians, Ventidius became a backer of Julius Caesar in the Roman civil wars, and he was granted a senate seat as a reward; after Caesar's assassination he allied himself with Antony. However, despite his caution in victory—which Shakespeare took from Plutarch’s Lives—his success against the Parthians ended his career. He returned to Rome where his triumph was extravagantly celebrated, but Antony discharged him amid rumors of bribes taken from a Mesopotamian ruler, and he died shortly thereafter.


Eros is a servant of Antony. Eros first appears in 3.5 where he reports to Enobarbus that Octavius has defeated Pompey and imprisoned Lepidus, news that foreshadows the conflict with Caesar that will prove fatal to Antony. Eros appears thereafter several times—in 3.11, 4.4, 4.5, and 4.7—as an obviously devoted servant; in 4.14 the defeated Antony, believing that Cleopatra has committed suicide, orders Eros to take his sword and kill him, in accordance with a promise made when Antony had freed the servant from slavery, years earlier. However, Eros cannot bring himself to do it and kills himself instead. Antony, declaring Eros 'Thrice-nobler than myself (4.14.95), follows his example and stabs himself. This episode, a familiar dramatic exercise (compare, for example, the death of Marcus Brutus, in 5.5 of Julius Caesar), lends pathos to the noble death of Antony.


Scarus is a follower of Antony. Scarus first appears at the battle of Actium, in 3.10; he reports on the catastrophic rout of Antony's forces by the navy of Octavius. Despite the defeat and the desertion of Candius, Scarus remains faithful to Antony. He fights bravely in his master's brief victory of 4.7 and makes light of his wounds—T had a wound here that was like a T, / But now 'tis made an H' (4.7.7-8)—and Antony praises him to Cleopatra after the battle. He accompanies Antony to final defeat in 4.12, before he disappears from the play. This scarred veteran—his 'honour'd gashes' (4.8.11) are cited by Antony—illustrates the courageous conduct in Antony's followers to the last, even after the desertion of Canidius and Eenobarabus. Antony's ability to hold such an honorable soldier allows us to see him and his fate as noble. 

Scarus' name, which does not appear in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, apparently is a pun referring to his scars, unless it was a mis-spelling of Aemilianus Scaurus (active c. 40-30 B.C.). He was a stepbrother of Pompey who joined Antony after his kinsman's final defeat in 36 B.C.—referred to in 3.5.4—and remained with him to the end. Scaurus was pardoned by the triumphant Caesar, and though he never held high office in the empire that Caesar established, his son did under the second emperor, Tiberius (ruled 14-37 A.D.).


Decretas (Decretus, Dercetas, Dercetaeus, Dercetus) (active 30 B.C.) is Historical figure and minor character in Antony and Cleopatra, a member of Antony’s personal guard. In 4.14 Antony stabs himself with his sword, and Decretas, seeing that his master's defeat is now complete, takes Antony's sword to Caesar, where he hopes to ingratiate himself with the conqueror by being the first to tell him of his enemy's death. In 5.1.5-26 he makes his presentation to Caesar and praises Antony eloquently, after which he disappears from the play. He demonstrates, by his night to Caesar, the collapse of loyalty around Antony, and then—somewhat incongruously—he bears witness to the nobility of the hero's end, a major theme of Act 5. 

Shakespeare took the name of this minor figure—unknown in history outside this anecdote—from his source, Plutarch’s Lives, and it has been variously rendered. In Plutarch and in Sir Thomas North’s English translation his name is Dercetaeus. Shakespeare—or someone else associated with early productions of the play—simplified this spelling, and it appears in the First Folio (1623) as 'Decretas' (twice, plus several abbreviations beginning 'Dec') and 'Dercetus' (once). In 1725, Alexander Pope compromised and introduced a new variant, 'Dercetas', and subsequent editors have chosen from among these possibilities.


Demetrius is a follower of Antony. In 1.1 Demetrius and his friend Philo discuss Antony's neglect of his military duties while he dallies with the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. The episode establishes a disapproving Roman view of the love affair.

PHILO Philo is a follower of Antony. In 1.1 Philo and his friend Demetrius discuss Antony's neglect of his military duty due to his infatuation with the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. Philo's angry complaint opens the play with an emotional flourish. The episode establishes a disapproving Roman view of the love affair.

Gaius Maecenas (d. 8 B.C.) is a follower of Octavius. Maecenas is a courtier who serves to swell the ranks of Caesar's court. He offers some important advice in 4.1 when he encourages Caesar to advance on Antony and finish him off while he is distracted with rage and humiliation after the battle of Actium. This remark helps signal Antony's approaching end. 

The historical Maecenas was far more important to Caesar than the play indicates. He was among the future emperor's earliest allies, and he assisted Caesar's arrival in Italy to claim the inheritance of the assassinated Julius Caesar in 44 B.C^ (Maecenas does not appear in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, however) Along with Agrippa, Maecenas was one of the trusted friends and advisers of Caesar throughout the civil wars and in the early days of the empire, and he conducted numerous delicate diplomatic missions. He was: descended from the Etruscans kings, though his family's fortunes had fallen when his grandfather joined a revolt against Rome. However Maecenas became one of the highest-ranking and richest men of the early Roman Empire. As such, he was a great patron of Roman literature the-role for which he Is now best known. He befriended and supported many poets and writers, including Virgil.


Agrippa, M. Vipsanius (63-12 B.C.) is a follower of Octavius. In 2.2 Agrippa displays considerable influence when he suggests the marriage between Antony and Octavia, and in 4.6 and 4.7 he is in command of Caesar's army. For much of the remainder of the play he serves as an opposite to Antony's Enobarbus, with whom he exchanges remarks on the principal characters; he displays the demeanor of a gruff veteran soldier.

Shakespeare's character does not reflect the importance of the historical Agrippa, who was probably the most important figure—after Caesar himself—in the defeat of Antony and the subsequent establishment of the Roman Empire. Along with Maecenas, he was one of Caesar's few close friends and advisers. His origins are entirely obscure; even his contemporaries knew nothing of his family or homeland, although he was believed to have been Caesar's schoolmate in Athens before accompanying the future emperor on his return to Italy after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. (Agrippa does not appear in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.) He was a prominent general throughout the civil wars. He put down revolts in Italy and Gaul and created and commanded the fleets that defeated Pompey in Sicily and Antony at Actium. After Antony's defeat, Agrippa was Caesar's right-hand man in governing Rome. In 23 B.C. Caesar nearly died of an illness, and he apparently intended that Agrippa would succeed him as ruler. In 21 B.C. Agrippa married Caesar's daughter. He served as a general and administrator in various parts of the empire until the year of his death.


Dolabella, Cornelius is a follower of Octavius. Dolabella appears as a minor member of Caesar's entourage in 3.12,4.6, and 5.1; in the third of these scenes we see him sent to Antony with a demand for surrender, before it is known that Antony is dead. Attention is brought to this errand later in the scene when Caesar recollects it; thus the focus is drawn to Antony once again. In 5.2, now delegated to guard Cleopatra, Dolabella succumbs to her charms and reveals to her that Caesar intends to humiliate her in a triumphal parade in Rome. This furthers her decision to commit suicide.

Little is known of the historical Dolabella beyond the anecdote of his brief encounter with Cleopatra, told in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives. Modern scholars believe that Caesar was actually manoeuvring Cleopatra towards suicide. He wanted her out of the way but found the execution of a woman an undignified proceeding for a Roman ruler, so Dolabella may not have been as charitable—or as charmed—as it seems in Plutarch and Shakespeare.  Another Roman writer later reported that Dolabella was an intimate of the Emperor Augustus, as Octavius Caesar became known.


Proculeius, Caius is  a follower of Octavius. When he advises Cleopatra to surrender to Caesar, Antony tells her, 'None about Caesar trust but Proculeius' (4.15.48). In 5.1 Caesar sends Proculeius to the Egyptian queen with instructions to promise her anything. Caesar wishes to prevent her from committing suicide so that he can triumphantly display her in Rome. In 5.2 Proculeius prevents Cleopatra from stabbing herself. He counsels her to be temperate, and tells her she will receive good treatment from Caesar. Because he has been recommended for his trustworthiness, his lies stress the isolation of Cleopatra in defeat, which helps motivate her suicide.

The historical Proculeius, a military commander, had a reputation as a forthright and honest man. This doubtless accounts for Antony's mistaken assumption (Shakespeare took the entire incident from Plutarch’s Lives), but his loyalty was entirely with Caesar. He was a close personal friend of his leader, and he remained so for many years, though he never attained—or, apparently, aspired to—high office in the empire that Caesar was to found.


Thidias Character is a diplomat who represents Octavius. In 3.12 Caesar sends Thidias to Cleopatra—in the wake of her and Antony’s defeat at the battle of Actium—to promise her whatever she wishes if she will abandon Antony. In 3.13 Thidias receives from Cleopatra a lavish declaration of allegiance to Caesar, but as he kisses her hand as a formal token of this new diplomatic relationship, Antony appears. 'I am Antony yet' (3.13.93), he says furiously, and he has Thidias taken away to be whipped. A Servant returns to report that Thidias begged for mercy during this punishment.  Antony sends him back to Caesar with an angry message of defiance, and tells him that if he wants revenge he should whip one Hipparchus, a freed slave of Antony's now in Caesar's service. The episode demonstrates Antony's continuing vitality, but also the disturbed state of his mind. 

In Shakespeare's source, Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives, Caesar's representative is named Thyreus, and many editions of the play use this name. Presumably, Shakespeare simply misremembered the name of this minor character. (In fact. North himself was mistaken, for the ambassador in Plutarch is named Thyrsus, a figure otherwise unknown in history.)


Gallus, Caius Cornelius (c. 69-27 B.C.) is a follower of Octavius. In 5.1 Gallus wordlessly follows Caesar's order to accompany Proculeius on his mission to offer mercy to Cleopatra, and in 5.2 he arrives at the quarters ot the Egyptian queen with a squad of soldiers Gallus leaves immediately, but his appearance-and his remark, -You see how easily she may be suroris'd' (5 2 35)-makes clear that Cleopatra is now entS-e ytn Caesar's control. She responds by attempting [o stab herself, but she is prevented by Procueius Gallus reappears as part of Caesar's entourage later in the scene, but he does not speak again. 

The historical Gallus was an important Roman poet, regarded as the principal inventor of the Roman love Segy but only a fragment of a single line of his work Survives. He abandoned art for war after an unsuccessful love affair and became a leading member of Caesar's military establishment; historians give him much of the credit for Antony's final defeat. After the war he became the first Roman governor of Egypt. He put down several rebellions and traveled up the Nile into what is now Sudan where he established relation between Rome and Ethiopia. However, he was a notably poor administrator, and a scandal, the details of which are lost, resulted in his dismissal. He was convicted of reason and punished with exile from Rome, to which he responded by killing himself.


Menas (active, c. 40-c. 35 B.C.) is a pirate who fights for Pompey. Menas and Menecrates are called famed buccaneers who make 'hot inroads' (1.4.50) on the coast of Italy in support of Pompey's rebellion. In 2.1 Menas confers with Pompey and predicts accurately the future disputes of Antony and Octavius Caesar. In 2.6 he is among his leader's advisers at the signing of the Treaty of Misenum, though he privately disapproves of it and says, 'Pompey doth this day laugh away his fortune' (2.6.103). In 2.7, during the banquet aboard Pompey's ship, Menas proves himself a true pirate and advises Pompey to cut the throats of the Roman leadership—Caesar, Antony, and Lepidus—and seize the state. When Pompey refuses, Menas decides to abandon him as doomed, for 'Who seeks and will not take, when once 'tis offer'd, / Shall never find it more' (2.7.82-83). This shrewdly cynical sailor reveals the mistrust and disloyalty that informs the politics of the play. 

The historical Menas is well represented in the play, for he was indeed a notably cynical turncoat. He deserted Pompey at Misenum in 39 B.C. and joined Caesar. Discontented with his rewards, he deserted again and returned to Pompey in time to participate in his defense of Sicily in 36 B.C. Again, however, he disapproved of what he saw as Pompey's lethargy and indecision—an opinion shared by military historians—and he changed sides for a third time and rejoined Caesar. Little more is known of him.


Menecrates (active c. 40 B.C.) is  a pirate who fights for Pompey. Mentioned with Menas as one of two 'famous pirates' (1.4.48) who support Pompey's rebellion against Rome with 'hot inroads' (1.4.50) on the coast of Italy, Menecrates turns out to be a-mild buccaneer when he appears, in 2.1. He philosophically recommends that Pompey have patience with the slow pace of his success. He then disappears from the play. He is mentioned with the more important Menas as a 'notable pirate' in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives.

In the FIRST FOLIO text of the play, all the speeches in 2.1 except Pompey's are designated 'Mene' and seem to belong to Menecrates, though Menas is spelled Menes once elsewhere in the Folio. However, since one of these five speeches—2.1.38-41—clearly belongs to Menas, editors have restored that speech to him and often give him more. In fact, beginning with the 1765 edition of Samuel Johnson, some editors give all these lines to Menas, leaving Menecrates mute.

VARRIUS Varrius is a follower of Pompey. In 2.1 Varrius brings the disquieting news to Pompey, Menas, and Menecrates that Antony has left Egypt to rejoin the coalition against Pompey. Varrius' function is to introduce a development of the plot.

Taurus, Titus Statilius (active 36-16 B.C.) is a general under Octavius. Taurus appears briefly at the battle of Actium, and receives, in 3.8, Caesar's order to maintain his army ashore, without fighting, while the naval battle is fought. He marches; wordlessly through 3.10 and avoids contact with Antony’s forces under Canidius, which stresses the in-conclusive nature of the land fighting. He is a pawn of 'Caesar's stategy and speaks only two words.    

The historical Taurus was a highly successful general, second only to Agrippa among Caesar's military. His background is unknown, though his name suggests descent from the pre-Roman Lucanians of southern Italy. He is first recorded as an admiral who commanded a unit in the defeat of Sextus Pompeius— the Pompey of the play. He went on to lead numerous other campaigns and governed conquered territories in North Africa and Spain.                 


Canidius (Camidius) is a general in Antony’s army. Canidius appears only briefly, in 3.7 where he objects to Antony's decision to fight Caesar at sea, and in 3.10 where he declares that he will surrender his troops to Caesar after Antony has lost the battle of Actium. Antony's power and authority waned due to the influence of Cleopatra, and his followers lost their faith in his success. The character Canidius demonstrates this.

The historical Canidius was in fact the only major figure among Antony's followers to stay with him to the bitter end. He fled after Actium and made his way back to Alexandria, where he was captured and executed upon his leader's final defeat and death. Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, was based on an anti-Antony source, and modern scholars believe that Canidius' impressive record as a hardy and loyal officer makes Plutarch's interpretation of his actions unlikely.


Silius is a lieutenant of Ventidius. Ventidius has just defeated a Parthian army in the name of Mark Antony, and in 3.1 he explains to Silius why he will not pursue the fleeing enemy. He does not want to succeed too thoroughly, lest Antony feel overshadowed and in revenge crush his military career. Silius admires Ventidius' political acumen. He has no personality and serves merely as a sounding board for his superior officer.


Euphronius is an ambassador for Antony.  In 3.12 the Ambassador carries his master's formal surrender to Octavius after the battle of Aactium, and in 3.13, after he has reported that Caesar refuses Antony's request for his life but offers leniency to Cleopatra if she will abandon Antony, Antony sends him back to Caesar with a challenge of hand-to-hand combat. Antony identifies the Ambassador as. the 'schoolmaster' (3.11.71) of his and Cleopatra’s children. In 3.12 Dolabella observes that the use of the schoolmaster as an emissary indicates the totality of Antony's defeat. This schoolmaster is identified by Shakespeare's source, Plutarch, as one Euphronius, presumably a Greek scholar but otherwise unknown in history. Plutarch adds that his diplomatic employment was necessary because of the earlier abandonment of Cleopatra by her attendant, Alexas. 


Alexas (Alexas Laodician) (active c. 32 B.C) is an attendant to Cleopatra. Alexas is a cheerful fellow who jests with Charmian and Iras in 1.2. He brings Cleopatra a message from Antony in 1.5, and attends her—almost without speaking—in 2.5, 3.3, and 4.2.  However, Alexas' desertion to Octavius after the battle of Actium, is reported in 4.6, and he appears to be a more important figure than his earlier role would suggest. Enobarbus reflects that Alexas had been sent by Antony to Jewry' (4.6.12), where he persuaded the ruler, Herod, to join Caesar. He goes on to remark that Caesar, shocked by this treachery had executed Alexas. The account elaborates on the important Act 4 theme of Antony's fall as many of his one-time followers are seen to have deserted him Shakespeare took his account of Alexas Laodician trom his source, Plutarch’s Lives, where the Greek servant's promotion to diplomatic status is said to have resulted from the friendship that developed between him and Antony through his job as Cleopatra's message bearer. His surname—found in Plutarchsuggests that he was from the important ancient city of Laodicia, m Asia Minor, but otherwise Alexas is not round in history.


Mardian is a eunuch in the court of Cleopatra. Mardian is a minor member of the queen's entourage. In 4.14 he performs his only significant act when, on Cleopatra's orders, he delivers to Antony the false message that she has committed suicide. This triggers Antony's suicide attempt. Mardian is the closest thing to a jester, or Fool, in Cleopatra's court. He is referred to as 'saucy' (4.14.25), and he is mildly amusing when he declares that he thinks on 'What Venus did with Mars' (1.5.18) when his mistress jests about his sexlessness.He appears to be the court musician, though he never performs as Cleopatra's willfulness leads her to reject his songs before she hears them. Aside from these semiofficial functions, Mardian's function is to swell the ranks of Cleopatra's grand establishment.


Seleucus (active 30 B.C.) is Cleopatra’s treasurer. In 5.2 Cleopatra calls upon Seleucus to confirm the inventory other household that she has submitted to the conqueror of Egypt, Octavius. Instead, he tells Caesar that she has withheld more than she has listed. Caesar, who is amused by Cleopatra's ploy, tells Seleucus to leave as Cleopatra subjects him to a tirade of insults. 

This episode has been variously interpreted. It can be seen as evidence of Cleopatra's shallow character. It continues the play's earlier portrayal of a grasping courtesan who here attempts to salvage what she can ' from the wreck other and Antony’s fortunes. On the other hand, it may actually demonstrate her cool—and, in the play's scheme of things, noble—intention to die rather than live on in humiliating defeat without Antony. Once Caesar has the idea that Cleopatra wishes only to retain a comfortable existence, he leaves her alone, free to arrange her suicide, whereas if her real intention were known, he would prevent her. Shakespeare may have intended Seleucus as the the queen's pawn in a successful effort to deceive the conqueror. The playwright's source, Plutarch’s Lives, states that this was her plan, and though Shakespeare changes many of the details in Plutarch's account of the episode, he may well have included it for the same purpose.


Diomedes is a servant of Cleopatra. In 4.14 Diomedes comes to Antony with a message which states that his mistress is 1 alive, despite an earlier report that she had committed suicide, but he arrives too late, for Antony has just stabbed himself. Diomedes accompanies the soldiers who carry Antony to Cleopatra and announces their arrival in 4.15. Diomedes appears by name in Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, but is otherwise unknown in history.


Soothsayer is a seer patronized by Mark Antony. In 1.2 the Soothsayer predicts that Cleopatra's waiting-woman Charmian shall outlive her mistress but will see a worse time in the future than in the past. He adds that he sees an identical fate for another waiting-woman, Iras. He accompanies Antony to Rome, and in 2.3 he recommends that they return to Egypt to get away from Octavius. He declares that Antony's spirit is bested by Caesar's when the two are together.  Antony dismisses the Soothsayer curtly, but muses to himself on the truth of his observation. In both episodes the Soothsayer's remarks prove pertinent, and in hindsight the audience can recollect his words,  In 2.3 the Soothsayer appears to be an Egyptian whom Antony has brought to Rome. Some scholars, however, believe that he may be the otherwise unknown Roman Lamprius, for the stage direction opening 1.2 reads, in part: 'Enter Enobarbus, Lamprius, a Soothsayer, . . . '. Thus, the Soothsayer can be construed syntactically as being named Lamprius.


Clown is the pretended fig seller who provides Cleopatra with the poisonous snakes with which she kills herself. The Clown, summoned by Charmian in 5.2, is a Clownin the literary meaning of the term in Shakespeare's day. He is a conventional comic figure, the ludicrously naive country bumpkin who had figured in Comedy from ancient times. He comically warns Cleopatra that poisonous snakes are dangerous. Solemnly, he states, ' ... his biting is immortal: those that do die of it, do seldom or never recover' (5.2.245-247). Clowns are usually talkative, and he goes on to tell of 'a very honest woman, but something given to lie' (5.2.250-251) who has reported on her own death by snake bite. He further expounds on the tendency of women to be corrupted by the devil—another medieval comic routine—before Cleopatra can get him to leave.  With Antony dead and Cleopatra about to kill herself, this episode comes at an agonizing point in the play's climax. The scene shatters the fascinated horror of the audience, while at the same time heightening it by the inane and excruciating postponement of the plot's development. Further, the play's sudden comic tone at this crucial moment highlights the triumphant, celebratory aspect of Cleopatra's suicide; the traditional ending of a romantic Comedy is evoked, and the transcendence of Cleopatra's total commitment to love is emphasized.


Cleopatra (68-30 B.C.) and title character of Antony and Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt and the lover of the Roman general, Mark Antony. Throughout Acts 1-4 Cleopatra displays the powerful charms of an experienced and thoroughly professional courtesan. She attempts to control her lover with a strategy of alternate taunts and insults and seductive sexuality. Then in Act 5, after Antony is dead, Cleopatra acknowledges the depth of her true feelings for her lover and dedicates her suicide to their joint love. She thereby transcends her earlier nature through the power of passion. 

Many commentators, who admire Cleopatra's ultimate nobility do not accept the reality of her earlier role as the exploiter of Antony's sexuality. But Shakespeare's Cleopatra is clearly representative of a familiar dramatic character type: the scheming courtesan.  From her first appearance she ridicules Antony, makes outrageous demands for his exclusive affection, declares that his love is insufficient—all classic techniques of emotional domination—and is oblivious to Antony's more romantic interpretation of love. She even uses his devotion against him when she declares that his lack of affection for his wife is evidence that he will eventually desert her as well. 

Cleopatra also has great charm and she richly deserves the famous tribute from Enobarbus, 'Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety' (2.2.235-236). She is witty even in the direst extremity. As the dying Antony is hoisted to her hide-out she can jest, in 4.15.32. In fact, some critics consider her one of the great comic figures in Shakespeare, comparable to Falstaff. She has a pleasing delight in mischief; Enobarbus accompanies his description of her magnificence with an account of when she put aside regal dignity and hopped gaily through the streets. Her beauty is enrapturing, and she has in abundance the intoxicating sexuality essential to the successful courtesan; as Enobarbus puts it, 'vilest things Become themselves in her' (2.2.238-239). She also has genuine affection for Antony, but even as she reveals her fondness for him—in his absence- she discloses her past history as a courtesan. She speaks in 1.5.18-34 other earlier affairs with Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great (father of the play's Pompey. Her hurt and anger at the news of Antony's marriage to Octavia are certainly genuine, but when she learns of Octavia's unattractive physical features her spirits are restored, for, courtesan-like, her confidence in her sexual allure assures her that she will win her lover back. She does, but when her flight from the battle of Actium brings about Antony's disgrace, she once again displays her essentially selfish nature, in 3.13, when she accepts Caesar's offer of an alliance, conveyed by Thidias. She coolly waits out Antony's rage—'I must stay his time' (3.13.155)—and resumes the role of docile and playful lover. However, when her sailors again betray Antony and his rage drives her away, she resorts to an extremely cynical ploy, the pretended suicide that sparks Antony's real one. Falsely assumed emotion—the favorite weapon of the courtesan—remains Cleopatra's most characteristic resource. 

However, in the end she is transformed through her noble response to the death other lover. In 4.15.25-26 she first mentions the idea of suicide simply as a way to foil Caesar's potential humiliations, but after Antony's death she refers to it as a noble ideal on the model Antony himself has offered, 'the high Roman fashion' (4.15.87). In refusing to be humiliated, Cleopatra finds herself at one with Antony in the Roman ideal of honourable suicide. Seleucus' revelation that she has withheld treasure from Caesar is sometimes taken as evidence that Cleopatra reverts briefly to ideas of survival, though another interpretation is that she chose to deceive Caesar as to her intentions so that he would not prevent them. However, even if we suppose that she does waver, she also returns to the idea of a noble death, and her focus remains on Antony—rather than on Caesar—as she approaches the deed. 

Cleopatra accepts death because it is the only end equal to her newly awakened love for Antony. It is in her ecstatic appraisal of him as 'an Emperor Antony . . .' (5.2.76-100) that she first finds the exalted note of commitment to the memory other lover that carries her through to the end. When she cries, 'Husband, I come' (5.2.286), she completes her transformation into 'fire, and air; my other elements / I give to baser life' (5.2.288-289). When she abandons her actual, earthly relationship with Antony for an eternal union, Cleopatra transcends the mortal world of politics and courtesanship where she and Antony had come to grief. 

Cleopatra's personality does not change with her final ecstasy—Shakespeare was too good a writer to exchange one sort of portrayal for another at the close of the play. Cleopatra dies, but she makes her death a luxurious and hedonistic one. She combines the splendour of grand costume—'Give me my robe, put on my crown' (5.2.279)—with an almost sexual surrender to death at the end, when she cries, 'As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle. / 0 Antony!' (5.2.310-311). Her theatrical nature provides the grandeur that elevates the tragedy provoked by her earlier conduct. Thus we can see Cleopatra's moral defects—her selfishness as a lover and her practice of the courtesan's wiles—in a new light, as inextricable elements of a personality powerful enough to generate the mysterious grace that she brings to her final gesture. Through this grace and power, Cleopatra's vision of reunion with Antony after death is a triumphant affirmation of love and life. Even in seeming defeat she embodies the imagination of the individual and the value of what could have been over what worldly power has insisted on. She knows that compared to her, Caesar is 'but Fortune's knave' (5.2.3), for the conqueror, with his limited vision, can only suppose that 'her life in Rome / Would be eternal in our triumph' (5.1.65-66), but Cleopatra's death is the true triumph celebrated by the play. 

The historical Cleopatra bore little resemblance to Shakespeare's character. She was not particularly beautiful—Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, attributes her magnetism to her conversation. Nor, in all probability, did she die for the sake of love but rather for the more practical end of avoiding a horrible captivity, and she only killed herself after she attempted to win Caesar with a promise to betray Antony. She was descended from one of the Greek successors of Alexander the Great, and was entirely of Greek ancestry and not African in any degree, despite the modern tendency to classify her among Shakespeare's black characters. Cleopatra inherited the throne of Egypt in 51 B.C., at the age of 17. Deposed by an aristocratic clique in 49 B.C., she was restored with the assistance of Julius Caesar a year later. 

She became Caesar's mistress, and she later filled the same function for Pompey the Great and Antony—unlike in the play, however, she did not become Antony's mistress until after his marriage to Octavia. Inall three cases her motive is clear; she needed the political support of the forces of Rome present in the eastern Mediterranean, and thus she ingratiated herself with whoever commanded them. Modern scholars think it unlikely that she influenced the policies of any other protectors, who simply used her as a means of extracting wealth from Egypt. Antony's gifts to her of kingdoms and power that Octavius Caesar complains of in the play were merely ordinary applications of Roman policy by which administrative jurisdictions in conquered lands were consolidated under a client ruler. The arrangement inspired no mistrust at the time. Cleopatra, who was reportedly greedy for even the trappings of power, persistently requested more such titular kingdoms, but Antony refused her. When Antony found himself at war with Caesar he naturally made use of the Egyptian kingdom that he governed through Cleopatra, but the unreliability of Egyptian forces at Actium and afterwards—as recounted in the play—cannot be attributed to her influence. It is uncertain whether Antony and Cleopatra were married, but she bore three children by him; the two boys were killed after Caesar's victory, and the girl later became a pawn of Roman politics and was married to a Numidian king.


In 1.2 the First Messenger tells that Antony's wife and brother have been defeated by Octavius in the Roman civil wars. He also tells of the conquest of Roman territory in Egypt by a renegade Roman general. A Second Messenger announces the arrival of a Third Messenger, who brings word that Antony's wife has died. The rapid sequence of messages establishes the importance of both the political and personal situation in which Antony lives. Although he seems unnecessary, the Second Messenger, who speaks only five words, contributes to the atmosphere of crisis. One of the Messengers (or, perhaps, a fourth) reappears in 3.7 at the battle of Actium with word of Caesar's troop movements. 

In 1.4 the Messengers appear, one after the other, with news of the success of Pompey and of his alliance with the pirates Menecrates and Menas. One of the Messengers (or, possibly, a third) appears in 4.6 with word of Antony’s preparations for battle.  The Messengers strengthen our sense of Caesar as an informed and decisive leader. 

A servant who brings Cleopatra news of Antony’s marriage to Octavia. In 2.5 Cleopatra's rage is so great when she hears of Antony's action that she beats the Messenger and threatens to kill him. He naturally flees. He is coaxed to return and repeat his message to the unwilling queen, and he flees again when she is again angry. In 3.3 he assures Cleopatra that he has seen Octavia and knows her to be an extremely unattractive woman whose defects he details. For this tactful report, Cleopatra rewards him with gold and agrees that he is a 'proper man' (3.3.37). The episode demonstrates the mercurial nature of the Egyptian queen. The Messenger represents an ancient theatrical stereotype, the comic servant. 


Sentry is a soldier in the army of Octavius. The Sentry and his two underlings, the Watchmen, are guards at Caesar's camp outside Alexandria. They discover the dying Enobarbus and bring him into the camp.  The Sentry demonstrates the intelligence expected of a good non-commissioned officer when he holds the Watchmen back, at first, to discover what Enobarbus will say, in case he should reveal useful information. He helps demonstrate the high morale in Caesar's forces as they approach their final victory. In some editions of the play, the Sentry and the Watchmen are designated as the First, Second, and Third Soldiers.


Any of several minor characters in Antony and Cleopatra that are servants of Antony.  In 4.2 Antony bids farewell to these attendants while they serve a banquet before his final battle against Octavius. He announces that their allegiance to him may be at an end, and says 'Perchance to-morrow / You'll serve another master' (4.2.27-28). They respond with tears, and Enobarbus, also weeping, chastises Antony for causing 'discomfort' (4.2.34). Antony laughs and declares that he intends to be victorious in the next day's battle. He rousingly calls for the banquet to begin as the scene ends. The episode demonstrates the disturbed state of Antony's mind as the play's climax approaches. The Servitors, who speak only three words in unison, are merely extras who witness this demonstration.

Servants are any of the workers in the household of Pompey. The servants are waiters at a banquet that celebrates the truce between Pompey and the Roman leaders—Antony, Lepidus, and Octavius. At the opening of 2.7 two of the Servants—designated the First and Second Servants—gossip about Lepidus' drunkenness at the feast. They observe that Lepidus has weakened himself in relation to the others. Their conversation prepares us for the comic scene of Lepidus' intoxication that follows and points up the treachery that lurks in the world of high policy and warfare, also illustrated in the remainder of the scene.


Boy is a singer. Some modern editions include a stage direction specifying that a Boy sings the Song that accompanies the dance led by Enobarbus (2.7.111-116) because Enobarbus stipulates that 'the boy shall sing' (2.7.108), although the authoritative First Folio text does not include a specific mention of the Boy. 


Captain is an officer in Antony’s army. In 4.4 the Captain greets Antony cheerfully on the morning of a battle, listens to his leader's parting remarks to Cleopatra, and leaves with him. His function is to add a note of martial bustle to the scene. In the first edition of the play, in the First Folio, this character was designated as Alexas, but this reflects an error—probably Shakespeare's—for in 4.6.12-16 we learn of Alexas' earlier treason and execution. Nicholas ROWE altered the designation and assigned the Captain his rank in the 1709 edition of the plays, and all subsequent editors have accepted the change.


Iras is  an attendant of Cleopatra. In 1.2 Iras is a pleasantly humorous young woman who jests over the predictions of the Soothsayer, but she displays almost no personality thereafter. She is overshadowed by Charmian in the queen's household, as she is on much less intimate terms with her mistress and has a much less developed role. Significantly, the Soothsayer tells Iras only that her fortune will be the same as Charmian's (1.2.52). She appears often with Cleopatra and Charmian but speaks very little. In 5.2 as Cleopatra prepares her suicide, Iras declares her loyalty and says that she will not see the queen as a Roman prisoner, 'for I am sure my nails / Are stronger than mine eyes' (5.2.222-223), but, as elsewhere, she is a faint echo of Charmian. When Cleopatra applies the poisonous asp to herself, Iras falls dead. Perhaps she uses the snake herself, moments earlier, or perhaps she simply dies of grief. In either case, she departs wordlessly. Shakespeare's source, Plutarch’s Lives, states that Cleopatra was attended at her death by a serving-woman named Iras, but she is otherwise unknown in history.


Charmian is an attendant of Cleopatra. In 1.2 Charmian is pleasantly humorous as she banters with her friends Alexas and Iras over the predictions of the Soothsayer, and one can understand Cleopatra's obvious fondness for her. The queen addresses Charmian more intimately and much more often than she does her other servants. She confides in her and permits her to offer advice, even if she usually rejects it. Charmian reminisces with her mistress about fishing expeditions she took with Antony, in 2.5.15-18; she also boldly attempts to restrain the queen's temper when she says, 'Good madam, keep yourself within yourself (2.5,75), and she teases her about her past affair with Julius Caesar, in 1.5.67-73. Charmian is a spirited, attractive young woman of a type that Shakespeare often depicted. 

In 4.13, however, it is Charmian who makes the ill-fated suggestion that Cleopatra let Antony believe she has committed suicide. This is perhaps a device whereby Shakespeare intended to remove blame from the queen, whose transition from courtesan to transcendent lover is about to take place. Charmian herself undergoes such a change along with her mistress, fulfilling the Soothsayer's prediction that she 'shall be yet far fairer' (1.2.16) than she already is. Her loyalty takes on a grandeur as she accompanies her mistress' grave poetry with cries of grief—'Dissolve, thick cloud, and rain, that I may say, / The gods themselves do weep' (5.2.298-299)—and she cries out to the queen with almost religious intensity, '0 eastern star!' (5.2.307). When Cleopatra dies, Charmian touchingly straightens her mistress' crown before she kills herself in the same way. As she dies, she proudly declares to a Roman soldier that Cleopatra's suicide 'is well done, and fitting for a princess / Descended of so many royal kings' (5.2.325-326). Her coda to Cleopatra's grand declaration of ultimate love adds an echo of ecstasy before Caesar's final triumph. 

Shakespeare adapted Charmian from a mere mention in his source, Plutarch’s Lives, and developed the character greatly. Plutarch states that Cleopatra was attended at her death by a serving-woman named Charmian, but this person is otherwise unknown in history.


To view other Antony and Cleopatra sections:

Main Play Page      Play Text     Scene by Scene Synopsis     Character Directory     Commentary  


To view the other Plays click below:

By  Comedies    Histories    Romances    Tragedies

All's Well the Ends Well Antony & Cleopatra As You Like It Cardenio Comedy of Errors Coriolanus
Cymbeline Edward III Hamlet Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 Henry V
Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3 Henry VIII Julius Caesar King John
King Lear Love's Labours Lost Love's Labours Wonne Macbeth Measure for Measure Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor A Mid Summer Night's Dream  Much Ado About Nothing Othello Pericles Richard II
Richard III Romeo & Juliet Sir Thomas More Taming of the Shrew The Tempest Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus Troilus & Cressida Twelfth Night Two Gentlemen of Verona The Two Noble Kinsman The Winter's Tale


To view other Shakespeare Library sections:

Biography     Plays     Poems     Sonnets     Theaters     Shake Links 

Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
[Home]  [Upcoming Shows]  [HSC Venues]  [Past Productions]  [Articles] [HSC Programs]
 [Shakespeare Library] [Actor Resources]   [Contact Us]  [Links]  [Site Map]