Play “All For Love” By John Dryden


The main theme of All for Love is love, which is shown through the relationship and hardships of lovers Antony and Cleopatra. Their tragic love storyline accentuates the tension between a person’s private aspirations and their duty to the nation, society, and the public good. This conflict between love and responsibility in the author’s terminology is a great source of narrative tension in the piece. It is a major dilemma for Antony, the main character, who is caught between his feelings for the queen of Egypt and his responsibilities as a spouse, parent, and ruler of Rome. Likewise, Cleopatra must choose between protecting her empire and loving Antony.

Both the queen of Egypt and the leader of Rome were powerful political characters who lost their kingdoms as a result of their passion. In this respect, Cleopatra loses her realm, while Antony loses his imperial power. In this sense, love was at odds with Antony’s responsibilities to his nation. During the entire play, All for Love, Antony struggles to understand whether he values integrity and glory or loves more (Dryden, 2019). The man considers leaving Cleopatra to maintain his reputation as a spouse, parent, and national leader.

Thus, while the play has many more topics that might be of equal importance, the theme of love covers every moment. Eventually, both characters end up choosing their love over their obligations to the community. This decision is emphasized in the play’s name, All for Love, which indicates Antony and Cleopatra’s option to forsake all they have for love (Dryden, 2019). The writing is a teachable moment about the repercussions of chasing love at the cost of dignity and glory. Nevertheless, the storyline depicted by Dryden can be considered admirable due to the characters’ being ready to die for each other.

All for Love as a Sentimental Tragedy

For a few reasons, the play All for Love is an epitome of a sentimental tragedy. First of all, the given work focuses on the love story of Antony and Cleopatra. The theme of love might be considered a frequent topic in most tragedies. The writing depicts the tragedy through the conflict between the world’s largest powers and the longing for personal independence. The former is portrayed by Rome and its new leader, Octavius, who contributed to the establishment of military might and centralized political authority (Dryden, 2019). The latter is portrayed by Antony and Cleopatra, who reside in Egypt. These representatives are beyond the influence of the Romans and cherish pleasure and freedom.

To delve deeper, it is noteworthy that the love of both characters is unlawful and forbidden by society. Because Antony has a spouse, Octavia, whose marriage is legal and adheres to Roman law, the authorities will execute justice in Octavia’s favor (Dryden, 2019). Throughout All for Love, Cleopatra expresses her desire to marry Antony. The woman regrets the fact that her instinct is to be an innocent spouse but that she is unfortunately obliged to play the degrading position of the mistress. She is envious of Octavia, obsessing over the personal characteristics and attractiveness of a woman portrayed as an example of pure Roman femininity.

Similar to most tragedies, All for Love has a sorrowful ending. In one moment, after Octavius starts a war, Antony is told that Cleopatra died. At this time, Antony, not willing to live without his love, decided to kill himself. Meanwhile, the queen of Egypt, learning of her lover’s death, is willing to take her own life. Cleopatra declares that she is ready to die as Antony’s spouse, a relationship that no Roman rules can break.

Antony is Less than Heroic or Impressive

In All For Love, Antony is a well-known Roman commander and national figure. He is known as the ruler of half the world, and he controlled the empire alongside two other leaders, notably Octavius. Despite his power and status, Antony had a flaw: his infatuation with the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra (Dryden, 2019). While many can consider him a hero, such a shortcoming later exposes the fact that this character is not heroic or impressive.

After first seeing Cleopatra, the character could not resist the feelings he had. Consequently, Antony left his wife, Octavia, and their children. Instead of concentrating his focus on his leadership and the nation, the man lost his strength (Dryden, 2019). According to Antony, his period in Egypt reflected a long break from the affairs of the world than any ruler needs (Dryden, 2019). He granted Cleopatra all of this time rather than governing Rome, leaving him an inept leader. Additionally, the character would not have started the political war with Octavius if he had stayed in Rome.

Antony is a flawed character, a decent, respectable person destroyed by his deadly, passionate love. Antony’s confidant, Ventidius, remarks that he is naturally inclined toward righteousness but that the character occasionally falls for sin, such as his passion for Cleopatra, which pulled the man off his route (Dryden, 2019). The leader’s split temperament, meaning he is neither a paragon of perfection nor evil, makes him an appealing character. Nevertheless, this man is not as heroic as it might seem. While Octavius seems like a straightforward and unforgiving political figure, Antony appears to be driven by his emotions that focus only on Cleopatra, which makes him weak. Instead of maintaining his reputation as a political figure, he allows himself to get involved in a relationship with a married woman.

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Dryden’s All for Love

While Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Dryden’s All for Love share certain similarities, such as characters, the plays differ in many aspects. The first notable difference between the two plays is the plot. Dryden maintains the classical accent on the triple unity in his work. This implies that the play occurs at a specific time, at a specific location, and involves a unity of action. The author’s play is mostly situated in Egypt, whereas Shakespeare’s piece covers Greece, Italy, and Egypt (Shakespeare, 2014). When considering the point of time, Dryden chose to concentrate on Antony’s later phases of life. Conversely, in Shakespeare’s piece, the author gives a more comprehensive account of Antony’s life, emphasizing the actual political conflict between Antony and Caesar.

Moreover, Dryden provides a picture of Cleopatra from different angles rather than a shallow representation of her character, like in Shakespeare’s play. In this respect, Dryden allows the reader to see how fragile the nature of the queen of Egypt is. It is obvious that the love of both characters transcends all levels and that they cannot live without each other. On the contrary, Shakespeare portrays the queen as superficial and manipulative. In the author’s depiction, the queen was a strong woman who controlled not only Egypt but also Antony and Caesar.


Lastly, while both playwrights see Antony as distracted, self-destructive, and reckless in passion, the first author has a more honorable picture of the warrior, spouse, parent, and companion. Dryden’s version of the man is more honorable than Shakespeare’s. Dryden agrees that Antony must accept responsibility for his obligations as a commander, spouse, and parent, as well as his obligation to the empire. In All for Love, the man is torn, trying to fulfill his duties, but he is finally driven by his heart.


Dryden, J. (2019). All for love. Outlook Verlag.

Shakespeare, W. (2014). Antony and Cleopatra. Dover Publications.