All for Love by Dryden: The Plot Summary.
All for Love by Dryden: The plot Story.
All for Love is a heroic tragedy by John Dryden. It was written in 1677 in blank verse. It retells the story of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. But its subject matter is completely different. It is not based on the political intrigue of Rome and Egypt but it is based on the ill-fated love affair between Mark Antony, the Roman general and Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen.
All for Love is a fantastic tragic play. Throughout this play the playwright has maintained the unities of time, action and place. It is set in the ancient Rome and Egypt. The play portrays the passionate and intense love relationship between Antony and Cleopatra. This relationship is ultimately doomed by external forces. This powerful and moving play explores the themes of love, passion, loyalty, duty and fate.
The play tells about unexpected decision of Antony. He decides to leave his duties as a Roman general. He decides to leave his wife Octavia too. He takes these decisions to go to Egypt and to live with his beloved Cleopatra. Due to such decision of Antony political turmoil takes place. His rival Octavius Caesar takes advantage of the situation. He begins to build an army against Antony. As Antony's forces prepare to face Caesar's army, he receives the false news that Cleopatra has died. Devastated by the news of her death, Antony decides to commit suicide, and his loyal followers follow suit. The play ends with Caesar's victory over Egypt, and the tragic deaths of Antony and Cleopatra.
The character of Cleopatra is particularly well-drawn in the play. The character of Antony is also portrayed with sympathy and depth. The play is structured in five acts.
In Act One, Antony arrives in Egypt and lives with Cleopatra. Both of them decide to live together despite the political turmoil. The play opens with the two priests, Serapion and Myris. They are discussing about the several omens that they witnessed recently in Egypt. They are worried for the future of their kingdom. It is because Antony and Cleopatra have recently lost the battle of Actium to Octavious. After losing the battle Antony is in despair. In the meantime General Ventidius arrives to console Antony. He is Antony’s old General and a Roman soldier. He is true well-wisher of Antony. He informs Antony that Syrian army is ready to support him with the condition that he must leave Cleopatra. He advises Antony that to get the support of Syrian army he should end the love affair with Cleopatra and return to Rome. At first Antony refuses to follow his suggestion but finally he agrees to leave Egypt but not Cleopatra.
In Act Two, Alexas informs Cleopatra about the discussion between Antony and Ventidius. He also tells her about their plan to leave Egypt. Cleopatra becomes hurt and sorrowful. Cleopatra asks Alexas to go to Antony and to convince him to visit Cleopatra. Meanwhile, Antony and Ventidius have now agreed upon being together. When they were laughing at the cowardice of Octavius Ceasar, Alexas enters and tells Antony that Cleopatra has sent some gifts as a token of her love for Antony. He requests Antony to visit her once before leaving. Antony accepts the gift sent by his beloved. He becomes ready to meet Cleopatra. Ventidius stops him from meeting Cleopatra but Antony does not listen to him. The meeting takes place. The mutual conversation starts. Cleopatra says that she would die if he leaves her. Antony's heart melts. Antony replies that he can never leave a woman who loves him so deeply. He tells Ventidius that he does not need the support of Syrian army. At this, Ventidius becomes annoyed and goes away saying, ‘O women! Women! All the gods have not such power of doing good to man, as you of doing harm.’
In Act Three, Ventidius comes to Antony and tells him that Octavius Ceasar has raised a strong army. It can be a great threat to him. At this Antony informs Ventidius that he knows a noble and brave soldier named Dolabella. He was once a dear friend of him. He is now in the army of Octavius. Now they are not in good terms. The reason behind the bitterness of their relationship is that once in the past he confessed his love for Cleopatra. After this I made him to leave Egypt. Ventidius brings Dolabella back and Antony reconciles with him. Ventidius and Dolabella remind Antony of his wife Octavia. They suggest him to reconcile with her. Dolabella feels that this proposal will be beneficial for their kingdom. This step will ward of the great threat. Ventidius brings Octavia and two daughters before Antony. Octavia declares that she still loves Antony despite his indifference towards her. Ventidius also urges Antony to leave Cleopatra and accept his family. Antony is moved when he unites with his daughters. He decides to leave Cleopatra. Meanwhile Cleopatra receives the news of reconciliation between Antony and Octavia. She becomes disheartened and furious. Cleopatra realizes that she will lose Antony.
In Act Four, Antony is ready to leave Egypt. He persuades Dolabella to bid his goodbye to Cleopatra. He himself lacks the courage to do so. When Dolabella sees Cleopatra, he confesses his love for her. On the advice of Alexas Cleopatra flirts with Dolabella in order to make Antony feel jealous. In the course of conversation Dolabella lies to her by saying that Antony used hard words for her. Cleopatra faints upon hearing this. Dolabella becomes nervous. He regrets and says her truth that he had reported false. Octavia and Ventidius overhear them. They assume that they have fallen in love. They inform Antonio about this. Antony is enraged by hearing about their love connection. A little later, Dolabella and Cleopatra enter. They are unaware of the situation. Antony blames both of them for being deceitful. They protest but Antony dominates. Both go away sorrowfully. Antony weeps at this separation.
In Act Five, Cleopatra blames Alexas for bringing her to such a situation. She is so distressed that she pulls out a dagger to kill herself. But Serapion prevents her from doing so. In order to prove Cleopatra's innocence, Alexas goes to Antony goes to Antony and tells him that Cleopatra has committed suicide. Antony recognizes Cleopatra's innocence and feels that the world is useless for him without her. He asks Ventidius to kill him. But Ventidius instead kills himself. Antony falls on his sword and gets badly wounded but is still alive. Meanwhile, Cleopatra comes to know about what Alexas told Antony. She rushes into the room and found him lying on the ground in the poo of blood. Antony is about to die. In such an hour of despair Antony and Cleopatra reconcile. Antony dies in her lap. Just before his death she promises him to join him very soon. She dresses herself in the royal fashion. She orders her maids to bring a poisonous asp. She lets the asp sting her and finally died beside Antony. After seeing their body priests remark that both of them will unite in heaven. There they will live happily forever.
Egypt is conquered by Caesar and the play ends with the tragic deaths of Antony and Cleopatra. The play explores the themes of love, passion, loyalty, and duty. It is a powerful meditation on the human condition.
The skillful use of language by Dryden in this play is notable. The used language is rich and vivid. It evokes the exotic and sensual world of ancient Egypt. The dialogue between the characters is both poetic and natural. The portrayal of the characters makes the play a masterpiece of English literature. The play remains a popular and influential creation even today.