Rulers fall in love. Rulers lose. Rulers commit suicide. That's the simplified synopses which I admit that I borrowed from Shelfari.com. There's an obvious parallel with Romeo and Juliet, but Antony and Cleopatra were old enough to know better. But I guess love is love, and what does age have to do with it?
I read Antony and Cleopatra
because it was this year's Shakespeare selection by the Great Books KC group I belong to. This book contains lots of history and geography, and I like that sort of stuff so I liked this play about much as is possible for me to like Shakespeare. But I am too impatient of a reader to truly enjoy Shakespeare.
This play explores the obvious struggle between reason and emotion. Symbolically it associates reason with Rome (west) and emotion with Egypt (east). Reason wins, assuming that suicide represents the losing side.
I may have claimed during discussion of the book that Cleopatra is Shakespeare's strongest female role. It is a dominate role, but there are lots of female roles in Shakespeare's plays. I've recently read this review
of the The Merchant of Venice,
which makes the case that Portia is not only a strong character, but also noble.