We love a high stakes monologue here at StageMilk, and Antony and Cleopatra is chock full of them. We’re going to take a look at one of Antony’s final monologues from Antony and Cleopatra in which after a long battle, betrayed by his great love Cleopatra he decides to kill her and himself. A bit like Romeo and Juliet but… not as loving. It doesn’t get much more high stakes than that.
So when we start the play Antony, one of Rome’s triumvirs along with Octavius and Lepidus has been hanging out with Cleopatra in Alexandria and kind of neglecting his stately duties in Rome, one of which is the fact that his third wife Fulvia, after rebelling against Octavius has died.
So they call him back to Rome to come and help them fight these three notorious pirates called Sextus Pompey, Menecrates, and Menas, who are causing all sorts of shenanigans in the mediterranean sea. Cleopatra begs Antony not to go, but reassuring her of his love for her, he leaves anyway.
So the three men meet in Rome, and Octavius and Antony put aside their differences. Agrippa, one of Octavius’ Generals suggests that Antony marries Octavius’ sister, Octavia, in order to strengthen the bond between them. Antony accepts the offer, but his General Enobarbus knows better than that, and says that Antony will never be satisfied by anyone else, now that he has been with Cleopatra.
A soothsayer warns Antony that if he ever is to fight Octavius, he is for sure, going to lose.
Meanwhile back in Alexandria, Cleopatra receives news of Antony’s marriage to Octavia. And as the old saying goes “shoot the messenger”. So she takes it out on them. However she’s calmed when her courtiers inform her that she’s not as good looking as her.
Now back to Rome, or more specifically, the mediterranean sea. Before the battle with the pirates the three triumvirs parley with Sextus Pompey and offer a truce. He can keep Sicily and Sardinia in exchange for helping them to rid the sea of all the other pirates. Re hesitates but ultimately agrees to the truce. So they party down on his ship. Octavius leaves the party early and sober. Soon after Antony departs Rome for Athens. Later, Menas suggests that Sextus kill all three of the triumvirs and claim Rome for himself, but Sextus disagrees saying it would be dishonourable. Well guess how that worked out for old Sextus? That’s right he gets betrayed. Octavius and Lepidus break the truce and war against him. Antony finds out about this later and is very very not happy about it, some would say mad.
So he goes back to Alexandria and crowns himself and Cleopatra as the rulers of both Egypt and the Eastern Roman empire, you know, his part of it. He accuses Octavius of not giving him his fair share of the Sextus’ lands and is furious that Lepidus has been imprisoned and kicked out of the triumvirate. Octavius agrees to give him the land but is super mad about what Antony has done.
So Antony prepares to go to war with Octavius. Enobarbus thinks Antony should fight on land where he’ll have the advantage but Antony disagrees, saying he’ll fight Octavius at sea because he triple-dog-dared him to fight there. Cleopatra offers Antony her fleet of ships to aid in the battle and he accepts. And so it’s war time, and the battle of Actium takes place off the western coast of Greece. But Cleoptra changes her mind last minute and flees with her sixty ships. Antony flees with her leaving his soldiers, sailors and ships to ruin. He’s ashamed at what he’s done in the name of love, and reproaches Cleopatra for making him a coward, but reconciles with her, devoting himself to her and her love.
Later Octavius sends a message to Cleopatra saying she should switch sides. Cleopatra flirts with the messenger only to be interrupted by Antony who is quite cross about it. So she sends the messenger to be whipped. Eventually he forgives her and pledges to fight another battle for her, this time on land.
On the eve of the battle, the soldiers hear strange portents which they assume must be the God Hercules abandoning Antony’s army. Enobarbus gets so spooked that he decides to switch sides and go join Octavius. When Antony finds out, instead of confiscating his goods which he left behind, he sends them to him. When Enobarbus receives them he feels so ashamed about what he’s done that he dies of a broken heart.
Antony loses the battle, and his troops abandon him en masse. He denounces Cleopatra, and decides to kill her and himself for what he believes to be treachery and he says…
All is lost!
This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me.
My fleet hath yielded to the foe, and yonder
They cast their caps up and carouse together
Like friends long lost. Triple-turned whore! ‘Tis thou
Hast sold me to this novice, and my heart
Makes only wars on thee. Bid them all fly!
For when I am revenged upon my charm,
I have done all. Bid them all fly! Be gone!
O sun, thy uprise shall I see no more.
Fortune and Antony part here; even here
Do we shake hands. All come to this? The hearts
That spanieled me at heels, to whom I gave
Their wishes, do discandy, melt their sweets
On blossoming Caesar, and this pine is barked
That overtopped them all. Betrayed I am.
O this false soul of Egypt! This grave charm
Whose eye becked forth my wars and called them home,
Whose bosom was my crownet, my chief end,
Like a right gipsy hath at fast and loose,
Beguiled me to the very heart of loss.
What, Eros, Eros!
Yonder: Over there
I’ve lost everything!
This horrible Egyptian woman has betrayed me.
My Navy has surrendered to the enemy and now they throw their hats in the air and share a drink like old friends.
That whore three times over! It’s you who has sold me out to Caesar and my heart is furious with you and you alone.
Tell them all to go!
My only occupation is getting revenge against this woman.
Tell them all to go! Get out!
Oh sun, I’ll never see you rise again.
I part with good fortune here and say goodbye.
Has it all come to this?
The friends that fawned over me, the friends who I have everything they desired are leaving, and now they fawn for Caesar in his new found glory.
And me, like an old tree starting to rot, when once I towered about them all.
I am betrayed.
Oh this lying Egyptian!
This evil charmer who on a whim would start and end wars.
Whose heart was my greatest prize, my penultimate goal.
She has tricked me like a Gypsy and now I have lost it all.
Notes on Performance
It can be easy to get caught up in the anger of this monologue, in the rage and angst. But look a little deeper and you’ll see what has Marc Antony so riled up is simple unmistakable heartbreak. Yes he is angry, yes plots revenge, but where does it come from? From the love of his life betraying him and subsequently breaking his heart.
With that said, this is a great chance to let it rip! Go big or go home. Remember it’s always easier to reign things in than to try and make them more expanded. So connect to the given circumstances and go for it.
Lastly keep in mind the history of this character and also of Cleopatra. If possible, it wouldn’t be the worst idea you’ve ever had to read Julius Caesar or at least know the plot points to better understand this play.
For more Male Shakespeare Monologues