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Plot Summary - The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra

Plot Summary

Following the assassination of Julius Caesar and the battle of Philippi, Mark Antony, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus are the joint rulers of the known world. Antony, however, is captivated by Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and neglects his responsibilities to spend time with her in Alexandria. This scandal is the talk of Rome and creates a rift between Antony and young Octavius Caesar. News comes from Rome that Antony's wife is dead. More urgently, the power of the triumvirate is being challenged by Pompey. Antony is forced to return to Rome and resume his responsibilities. When it is suggested that he should cement the alliance with Octavius by marrying his sister, Octavia, Antony agrees. Back in Egypt, the news of Antony's marriage sends Cleopatra into a jealous tirade. On the brink of war, Antony and Octavius make peace with Pompey. Shortly afterwards, however, Antony learns that not only has Octavius attacked Pompey after all, but he has also spoken scornfully of Antony in public and has had Lepidus imprisoned on dubious charges. Antony sends Octavia back to negotiate with her brother while he returns secretly to Alexandria. News arrives in Rome that Antony and Cleopatra have crowned themselves and their children kings and queens in Alexandria. Octavius declares war on Egypt. The Egyptian forces lose the sea-battle of Actium when Antony deserts the battle to follow Cleopatra's fleeing ship. Antony is consumed with shame and despair. However, hearing that Octavius has offered to make a secret treaty with Cleopatra, he rouses himself for a second, victorious battle. On the eve of the third battle, Antony's soldiers are nervous and fear bad omens. Even the faithful Enobarbus deserts him. The Egyptian fleet surrenders and Antony, in his fury, accuses Cleopatra of betraying him to Octavius. She retreats from his anger to her monument and sends a false report that she is dead. On hearing this, Antony attempts suicide and is brought to Cleopatra's monument to die in her arms. Rather than be captured and enslaved by the Romans, Cleopatra also kills herself. With all his enemies eliminated, Octavius returns victorious to Rome.

 

RSC Staging History 1960-2007

1972 RST/1973 Aldwych: Trevor Nunn, Buzz Goodbody

Christopher Morley, Ann Curtis (design); John Bradley, Brian Harris (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music)

Richard Johnson (Antony), Janet Suzman (Cleopatra), Corin Redgrave (Octavius Caesar), Patrick Stewart (Enobarbus), Gerald James/Tim Piggott-Smith (Pompey), Rosemary McHale (Charmian), Judy Cornwell/Mary Rutherford (Octavia), Mavis Taylor Blake (Iras), Joe Marcell (Eros), Jonathan Kent (Thidias), Raymond Westwell/Philip Locke (Lepidus), Tim Piggott-Smith (Proculeius), Patrick Godfrey (Maecenas)

1978 RST/1979 Aldwych: Peter Brook

Sally Jacobs (design); Nick Chelton/Clive Morris (lighting); Richard Peaslee (music)

Alan Howard (Antony), Glenda Jackson (Cleopatra), Jonathan Pryce (Octavius Caesar), Patrick Stewart (Enobarbus), David Suchet (Pompey), Paola Dionisotti (Charmian), Marjorie Bland/Juliet Stevenson (Octavia), Juliet Stevenson (Iras), John Nettles/John Bowe (Ventidius/Dolabella), John Bowe (Scarus), Hilton McRae (Eros), Alan Rickman/Paul Whitworth (Thidias/Alexas), Paul Whitworth (Diomedes), Paul Brooke (Lepidus), David Bradley (Proculeius/Soothsayer), David Lyon (Demetrius), Paul Webster (Agrippa), George Raistrick (Menecrates), Paul Moriarty (Menas), Richard Griffiths (Clown)

1982 TOP/1983 Pit: Adrian Noble

Nadine Baylis (design); Leo Leibovici (lighting); George Fenton (music)

Michael Gambon (Antony), Helen Mirren (Cleopatra), Jonathan Hyde (Octavius Caesar), Bob Peck (Enobarbus), Clive Wood (Pompey), Sorcha Cusack (Charmian), Penelope Beaumont (Octavia), Josette Simon (Iras), David Troughton (Scarus/Soothsayer/Clown), Michael Maloney (Eros), Ken Bones (Thidias/Alexas), Albie Woodington (Diomedes), Paul Webster (Lepidus/Proculeius)

1992 RST/1993 Barbican: John Caird

Sue Blane (design); David Hersey (lighting); Ilona Sekacz (music)

Richard Johnson (Antony), Clare Higgins (Cleopatra), John Nettles (Octavius Caesar), Paul Jesson (Enobarbus), Toby Stephens (Pompey), Claire Benedict (Charmian), Phyllida Hancock (Octavia), Susie Lee Hayward (Iras), Dominic Mafham (Dolabella), Colin Starkey (Scarus), Peter De Jersey (Eros), James Connolly (Thidias), Nick Kemp (Alexas), Maxwell Hutcheon (Diomedes), Andrew Burke (Lepidus), David Burt (Proculeius), Roger Frost (Maecenas), Jasper Britton (Soothsayer), Andrew Jarvis (Agrippa), Gordon Case (Menas), Griffith Jones (Schoolmaster), Alan Cox (Messenger), Jenna Russell, Elizabeth Renihan (Attendants)

1999 RST/2000 Barbican: Steven Pimlott

Yolanda Sonnabend (design); Hugh Vanstone (lighting); Jason Carr (music)

Alan Bates (Antony), Frances de la Tour (Cleopatra), Guy Henry (Octavius Caesar), Malcolm Storry (Enobarbus), Henry Ian Cusick (Pompey/Proculeius), Rachel Joyce (Charmian), Sarah Walton (Octavia), Hermione Gulliford (Iras), Colin Mace (Dolabella), Nicholas Tigg (Eros), Aidan McArdle (Thidias/Alexas), Orlando Wells (Diomedes), Michael Gardner (Lepidus), Peter Kelly (Soothsayer), Anthony Byrne (Agrippa), Colin Mace (Menas)

2002 RST/2002 Theatre Royal Haymarket: Michael Attenborough

Es Devlin (design); Tim Mitchell (lighting); Paddy Cunneen (music); John Leonard (sound); Clive Wood (movement)

Stuart Wilson (Antony), Sinéad Cusack (Cleopatra), Stephen Campbell-Moore (Octavius Caesar), Clive Wood (Enobarbus), Noma Dumezweni (Charmian), Sarah Ball (Octavia), Kirsten Parker (Iras), John Hopkins (Dolabella), Israel Aduramo (Eros), Steve Sarossy (Thidias), Simon Nagra (Alexas), Ben Elliot (Diomedes), William Whymper (Maecenas), Clifford Rose (Lepidus/Proculeius), Trevor Martin (Soothsayer), Simon Scott (Agrippa), John Killoran (Scarus), Ross Waiton (Decretas), Ian Drysdale (Canidius), Julian Jensen (Gallus), Christian McKay (Mardian), Cristina Barreiro (Lady)

2006 Swan (Complete Works Festival)/2007 Novello: Gregory Doran

Stephen Brimson Lewis (set), Kandis Cook (costumes); Tim Mitchell (lighting); Adrian Lee (music); Martin Slavin (sound); Michael Ashcroft (movement)

Patrick Stewart (Antony), Harriet Walter (Cleopatra), John Hopkins (Octavius Caesar), Ken Bones (Enobarbus), Ariyon Bakare (Pompey), Golda Rosheuvel (Charmian), Mariah Gale (Octavia), Emma Jay Thomas (Iras), Luke Neal (Dolabella), Chris Jarman (Eros), Nick Court (Thidias), Edmund Kingsley (Maecenas), James Hayes (Lepidus), Keith Osborn (Agrippa), David Rubin (Menas), Joseph Alessi (Scarus), Ravi Aujla (Decretas), Paul Barnhill (Canidius), Rob Carroll (Silus), Ewen Cummins (Mardian), Julian Bleach (Clown), Allyson Brown (Habibah), Graig Gazey (Messenger)

For a gallery of nearly 100 production images from a selection of these productions (and some older ones in the pre-RSC Shakespeare Memorial Theatre), together with sample costumes, pages from promptbooks and other visual materials, go to

http://www.rsc.org.uk/search/search.aspx?q=cleopatra

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