Barbara Everett rightly claims that the play is continually suggestively of different kinds and categories of drama. This is not simply a tragedy and no character is simply and truly tragic. However, Cleopatra, Antony and Enobarbus have tragic elements grandeur, nobility, fateful misjudgements and a fall from the heights as well as lesser qualities. It would be true to add, though, that Cleopatra is the dominating presence in the play.
Even the hard-bitten
Antony, the triple pillar of the world, is left whistling to thair and so, by bathetic contrast, her commanding presence is accentuated.
After Antonys death her speeches of grief carry her into the tragic sphere since they piercingly convey her desolation: The odds is gone, /And there is noting left remarkable/ Beneath the visiting moon. Equals Macbeths Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow as an expression of devastating loss and apprehension of meaninglessness. Her dream of Antony is the supreme expression of her love for him his features kept their course and lighted/ the little O, the earth and coming, as it does, after his death, this expression contains not only love, but the tragic realisation of what she has lost: the whole world.
But is the final effect truly or solely tragic? I A Richards claims that if a play has a compensating Heaven to offer the tragic hero, [the effect] is fatal. Cleopatra and Antony look forward to reunion in the Elysian fields and so, how can we feel the tragic reaction of pity? Jacobean audiences believed in some form of after-life and so would probably have been carried along on the promise of the lovers reunion; even a modern non-believer may feel their (deluded) belief counterbalances a truly tragic effect.
In addition, it may be said that Cleopatra has too many flaws for a tragic hero. Her extreme mood changes, her violence when she is thwarted, her never-explained flight from the battle of Actium, these are a few of many. Moreover, there are times when she appears, not great or tragic, but comical or ridiculous (for instance, when she coaches her messenger to give a caricatured depiction of Octavia and then is childishly pleased , believing the image that she herself has suggested.
Antonys claim to the status of tragic hero may be considered as similarly compromised. He is sometimes a fool (even if not a strumpets fool) mocked in public by Cleopatra; he follows her ship out of the Battle of Actium; he sends Caesar an absurd challenge to single combat; he bungles his death, so that a suicide after the high Roman fashion descends into a tragic comedy.
However, like Cleopatra, he has at times the tough of tragic greatness about him. In defeat, he thinks not solely about his won loss of honour but also about his followers commanding them to take his gold and divide it amongst themselves, then desert to Caesar. Similarly, he sends
In conclusion, no one character is the centre of the play; and the two principals cannot be seen as wholly tragic. Indeed, the play transcends generic boundaries.