John Fletcher
Philip Massinger



a synoptic, alphabetical character list


Achillas is the captain of Ptolemy's guard and is, at first, loyal to him. He supports the decision to confine Cleopatra. He agrees with Photinus' belief that Pompey should be killed although, after Septimus actually does the deed, Achillas mourns over the head. After Cleopatra makes her way to Caesar, Achillas defends himself against charges that he allowed it to happen, and promises to do whatever Photinus feels is best, clearly separating himself from the "ungrateful king" as Photinus describes him. After the masque, Achillas helps Photinus turn Ptolemy against Caesar by reporting his continued fascination with Egypt's wealth. The two turn the repentant Septimus back to his evil ways by comparing him to Caesar, who was also born poor and reached greatness through bloodshed. Achillas agrees to be the one to kill Ptolemy and does enter with his body, although he claims the king was trampled to death by pursuers. He is killed by Caesar and his captains.


Achoreus is a priest of Isis, and an advisor to Ptolemy, although his counsel is regularly rejected. In the opening scene, he objects to the confinement of Cleopatra, saying it would not please Pompey or Rome's senate. When Ptolemy asks how he should receive the beaten Pompey, Achoreus believes the only moral and honest course of action is to protect Pompey, since it was Pompey who put Ptolemy on the throne. He also believes Caesar is a noble man and will admire Ptolemy for standing by his friend. His advice is rejected by Photinus and then Ptolemy. When Caesar is enraged at Pompey's death, Achoreus says "I told you so" but his view is again rejected by Photinus, who claims Caesar is only upset publicly. When Cleopatra makes her way to Caesar, Achoreus' advice– to immediately appeal to Caesar for mercy–is finally heeded by Ptolemy. However, when he, along with Photinus, suggests that displaying the wealth of Egypt to Caesar is a bad idea, he is again ignored. His final counsel is simply to pray, and he leaves immediately to do so. However, he is hardly forgiving. When Septimus appears, seeking repentance, Achoreus tells him to stay away, since his bloody hands would pollute the sacrifice. Archoreus' final act is to promise to try to calm the rebels attacking Caesar, but there is no indication he has any success. Indeed, he is killed with Ptolemy, apparently (according to Achillas) trampled to death while they were attempting to escape pursuers.


A "ghost character." Caesar lists Africanius as one of his defeated enemies as he contemplates his victories and what they have and have not gained him.


Antony is one of Caesar's captains, and does not, in this play, demonstrate any of the characteristics of his later career. He is loyal to Caesar, admiring him for weeping at Pompey's death, and defending his infatuation with Cleopatra, although wishing he would abstain. He is appalled by Septimus' rich appearance, and suggests that if he were armed he would make Septimus "blush" for his behavior. After the revolt begins, Antony counsels Caesar to kill both Ptolemy and Cleopatra, but Caesar is not sure if Ptolemy is treacherous and is sure Cleopatra is not. When the fight is going badly, Antony suggests they die nobly on each other's swords (suggesting his ultimate end), but Caesar does not believe the battle is lost. Along with the others, he rejects Septimus' attempt to hide them in a cave, assuming it is treachery. Although he is part of the party who rescues Cleopatra and kills Photinus and Achillas, he has no lines in the last scene.


A "ghost character." Achillas, describing the camp of Pompey, says that it is full of delicacies brought in by sea, more like a Roman feast presented by Lucullus and Apicius than a battle camp.


Apollodorus is the guardian of Cleopatra. He is loyal to her, and tries to make her confinement more comfortable by bringing a boy singer to amuse her. He tells her of Pompey's arrival in Egypt and Cleopatra then asks him to help her secretly travel to Caesar. He agrees, although he does not actually appear with the packaged Cleopatra. After the masque, he brings Cleopatra word that Caesar wants to see her, and she attacks him for ever bringing her to Caesar. Apollodorus replies that it was her wish and that he suffered great danger for her sake. When the palace is attacked, Apollodorus suggests that they are in a defensible position and can hold out until relieved. He is with Caesar in the next few scenes, but does not have any lines, and does not appear in the final scene, when Cleopatra is rescued from Photinus.


Arsinoe is the sister of Cleopatra and Ptolemy, however, she has no desire for power. She tells Apollodorus that Cleopatra has found him a noble and caring guard. She takes no part in any of the various plots and is not present at the mask where Caesar ignores Cleopatra due to his wonder at the displayed wealth, but afterwards, Arsinoe attempts to calm Cleopatra's anger. In the final scene, Arsinoe enters with Eros, both in terror at what may happen to them, but Arsinoe is strengthened by Cleopatra's bravery. Her newfound bravery is not apparent in words, since she is the only one to mourn her brother's death, and her only other speech is relief at their rescue by Caesar.


The Boy is a singer who, on Apollodorus' command, sings a song to Cleopatra that describes how she is more beautiful in captivity and how her mind cannot be chained.


Caesar arrives in Egypt after beating Pompey in battle. He is presented with Pompey's head, but is not at all pleased; rather, he mourns the dishonorable death Pompey has suffered and threatens to kill Ptolemy, although he does eventually forgive the king on grounds on of youth. That night, Caesar receives a large package, which turns out to be Cleopatra, who begs for his protection. Caesar is immediately infatuated by her, and promises her anything, even calling her a goddess. However, when Ptolemy invites Caesar to a masque displaying the wealth of Egypt, Caesar is overwhelmed by the display and ignores Cleopatra. After the masque, he comes to see her, but is refused entrance. When he forces his way in and tries to mitigate her anger, she bitterly accuses him of treating her as a mistress only, cast off in favor of a new mistress–:gold. When Caesar promises that she can be queen or anything she wishes, she tells him to make her a maid again, and then leaves, ignoring his command to stay. His captains then appear and tell him that while he was distracted by lust, the palace has been besieged. Antony suggests that Ptolemy and Cleopatra are behind the revolt, but Caesar refuses to believe Cleopatra is a traitor. He parleys with Photinus, and is appalled that he is not respected by the eunuch, and humiliated that he might have to seek help. Septimus approaches him and promises to take Caesar and others to a cave where they can hide, but Caesar rejects this offer as shameful and probably just a way to kill him. Instead, he has Septimus hanged and goes on the attack, entering to rescue Cleopatra from Photinus, kill Photinus and Achillas and hand over Egypt to Cleopatra.


A "ghost character." Caesar describes Cato as a lover of Rome's freedom and stationed in Africa, ready to attack. After Caesar falls in love with Cleopatra, Scaeva wishes that Cato, Juba and the sons of Pompey would attack and rouse Caesar from his romantic lethargy.


Cleopatra is the sister of Ptolemy and, as the play opens, she has been confined and placed under guard because her brother and advisors fear that she may be the focus of a coup to place her on the throne. She finds this captivity unendurable, even though, as her guard Apollodorus points out, it is very mild, and plots to escape. She has Apollodorus deliver her to Caesar, wrapped up in a packet. Caesar is infatuated at once, much to the discomfort of his captains, and promises to do whatever she wishes. However, when Ptolemy invites Caesar to a masque showing the wealth of Egypt, Cleopatra finds herself ignored as Caesar is dazzled by the display. She is humiliated and rages against herself and Apollodorus for ever approaching Caesar. When Caesar appears before her, not even aware of what he has done, she bitterly accuses him of treating her as a mistress only, cast off in favor of a new mistress–:gold. When Caesar promises that she can be queen or anything she wishes, she tells him to make her a maid again, and then leaves, ignoring his command to stay. When the palace is besieged, Cleopatra is not afraid, and instead heartens her sister by reminding her that they have a royal nature, which cannot be taken from them. At that moment Photinus enters and declares that all his plotting has been to have Cleopatra. She rejects him absolutely, and he then threatens to hand both her and Arsinoe over to his soldiers, but Cleopatra remains unmoved, declaring that she will die as she was born, in command. When Caesar rescues her, Cleopatra regrets that she ever rejected him. As the play ends, Caesar gives Egypt over to her.


A "ghost character." Cornelia is the wife of Pompey and is described by Labienus as landing with Pompey and their sons on Lesbos and then Egypt.


Dolabella is one of Caesar's captains, but he has little individuality. He is never on stage separate from Antony, and echoes what Antony, Scaeva or Caesar says. For example, he agrees with Antony that Caesar's tears at the death of Pompey show his greatness, and takes orders from Caesar. Once Caesar is in love with Cleopatra, Dolabella agrees with Scaeva that he is bewitched and no longer a true warrior. When Septimus enters, richly dressed, Dolabella tells him he smells rotten with betrayal. When Caesar is overwhelmed by the wealth displayed by Ptolemy, Dolabella hopes that dreams of wealth will continue to haunt him so that he will return to soldiering. After the palace is attacked, Dolabella tells Caesar to be himself and enjoy being in danger, and then follows his orders during battle. Although he is part of the party who rescues Cleopatra and kills Photinus and Achillas, he has no lines in the last scene.


Eros is Cleopatra's waiting woman. When Apollodorus asks her to persuade Cleopatra to accept captivity, since she can still do what she wishes, Eros points out she has been so used to freedom and command that nothing less will satisfy her. After Septimus assassinates Pompey, he approaches Eros, but she rejects him despite their previous relationship (clearly described). She states that although she is wanton, she will kiss no murderers or betrayers, and leaves him. Along with Arsinoe, she tries to persuade an enraged Cleopatra that Caesar is still in love with her, although neither is successful. During the final battle, Eros is terrified of the fate awaiting the women, and is declares she does not feel braver after Cleopatra tries to raise their spirits. In fact, after Caesar rescues them and then goes off to deal with Photinus and Achillas, Eros comments that she is worried that his soldiers, left to guard them, might instead try to rape them, an idea Cleopatra rejects as unworthy of Caesar.


The unnamed Epilogue gives a traditional, short speech requesting the audience's goodwill for the play, however poor it is.


A "ghost character." Eunoe was a queen loved by Caesar. Cleopatra describes her as a Moor and deformed, thus showing that Caesar is attracted to royalty as much or more than to beauty.


Isis is one of the characters in the masque Ptolemy arranges for Caesar. Nilus sings a song describing Nilus and promising he will come himself. She then describes the life giving effects of the river, and promising if Caesar pays attention to Nilus' song, then his seven heads will appear and dance.


A "ghost character." Juba is described by Caesar as one of the men opposed to him, and also as the murderer of his friend (unnamed in the play, but referring to Curio). After Caesar falls in love with Cleopatra, Scaeva wishes that Cato, Juba and the sons of Pompey would attack and rouse Caesar from his romantic lethargy.


A "ghost character." The King of Parthia is described as famous for this defeat of the Crassi, and offers Pompey protection.


Labienus was Caesar's lieutenant but has deserted him for Pompey, believing his was the better cause. He arrives, wounded, to tell Ptolemy of Pompey's loss and arrival in Egypt.


The Labourers are characters in the masque Ptolemy arranges for Caesar. The three of them sing a song praising Nilus and how easily he flows into the beds they make for him in spring.


A "ghost character." Achillas, describing the camp of Pompey, says that it is full of delicacies brought in by sea, more like a Roman feast presented by Lucullus and Apicius than a battle camp.


A "ghost character." Marcellus is the consul who pronounced Caesar an enemy to Rome. Photinus refers to the incident, and Caesar's defiant crossing of the Rubicon, when defending his attack on Caesar.


Nilus is one of the characters in the masque Ptolemy arranges for Caesar. Nilus sings a song describing the wealth the river brings, both in fertility for the land, and in gold and pearls. After this song, masquers enter, representing the seven heads of Nilus.


Photinius is Ptolemy's chief advisor and a eunuch. He first enters with Septimus, and promises to show him favor, despite his awareness that Septimus has deserted Pompey. After hearing that Pompey has lost his battle with Caesar and is coming to Egypt, Photinus advises Ptolemy to have him killed in order to make peace with Caesar. Achoreus is appalled at this counsel, but Photinus argues that since kingdoms are maintained by force, a ruler who is guided only by personal morality is actually a bad king. After Ptolemy presents Caesar with Pompey's head and is threatened with death, Photinus maintains that Caesar is actually relieved to be rid of his enemy, and only pretends to mourn. Privately, however, Photinus expresses anger at Caesar's lack of gratitude, and gives Septimus money in exchange for future service. He then tries to persuade Ptolemy to continue the path of assassination with Caesar, and when Ptolemy angrily rejects him and sends Archoreus to make peace, Photinus and Achillas agree to turn against the king. Photinus speaks against Ptolemy's plan to show off the wealth of Egypt and when Ptolemy does so, and Caesar is clearly dazzled by what he sees, Photinus and Achillas persuade Ptolemy that he must attack Caesar at once. Although it is unclear if Ptolemy actually starts the revolt (since he next appears with Caesar, declaiming responsibility), what is clear is that Photinus and Achillas have turned against Ptolemy. Achillas agrees to kill Ptolemy and Photinus delegates Caesar's murder to Septimus, whom he has swayed away from repentance. Photinus then has a parley with Caesar and Ptolmey, telling them that he considers himself equal to both. Photinus then finds Cleopatra and tells her that all his plans have been to achieve her. Cleopatra rejects him utterly, and he then tells her he will give both her and Arisone to his soldiers. But Achillas enters and reveals that although Ptolemy is dead, Caesar is triumphant. Photinus declares that his fate has caught up with him. This turns out to be very true, as Caesar appears immediately, and kills Photinus.


A "ghost character." Caesar lists Petreius as one of his defeated enemies as he contemplates his victories and what they have and have not gained him.


A "ghost character." Although Pompey never appears on stage he is as important, for the first act, as any other character. Pompey arrives at Egypt after a failed battle with Caesar. Ptolemy wishes to give him aid, since it was Pompey who put him on the throne, and he is supported in his wish by Achoreus. However, Photinus persuades him that safety lies in assassinating Pompey, and this plan is eventually followed. Pompey is killed by Septimius and his head is presented to Caesar who, unsurprisingly, is not at all pleased.


"Ghost characters." They are described by Labienus as landing with Pompey and their mother at Lesbos and then Egypt. Caesar later describes them as maters of the sea and allied against him. After Caesar falls in love with Cleopatra, Scaeva wishes that Cato, Juba and the sons of Pompey would attack and rouse Caesar from his romantic lethargy.


An unnamed Prologue describes the plot of the play, stressing that it will not deal with Cleopatra's love for Antony or her death, but instead show her as a young virgin. The Prologue also claims that the play shows what has never been put on stage before–: the young Cleopatra and her earliest relationship with Caesar.


Ptolemy is the king of Egypt, put on the throne by Pompey, but he is young and easily swayed by his advisors. He agrees with Photinus that Cleopatra should be confined until married, to prevent attempted coups. When Pompey is reported to be fleeing to Egypt to escape Caesar, Ptolemy immediately wishes to offer him protection, since it was Pompey who helped him take the throne. However, Photinus talks him into agreeing to Pompey's death, convincing Ptolemy that a king cannot always be loyal or moral. The plan backfires; Caesar is outraged at Pompey's death, although he forgives Ptolemy, saying he is young and foolish. Photinus claims that Caesar is secretly pleased and Ptolemy says he must continue to follow his advice, but when Cleopatra makes her way to Caesar, Ptolemy rejects Photinus' advice. Instead, he decides to dazzle Caesar with Egypt's wealth, to win Caesar away from Cleopatra. The display of wealth and masque do, in fact, dazzle Caesar, but Ptolemy becomes aware of the danger (as Achillas and Photinus warned) and decides he must attack Caesar before Caesar tries to conquer Egypt. However, once the revolt starts, Ptolemy goes to Caesar, claiming his innocence. Whether this is truth or policy, Photinus and Achillas decide that he must die, and Achillas agrees to murder him. Ptolemy is killed by Achillas, and is mourned only by Arsinoe, while everyone else is more concerned with who will win the battle.


Scaeva is one of Caesar's captains. He is rough and outspoken, moved by little except victory. When Caesar weeps over the head of Pompey, Scaeva wonders privately what Caesar would do if Pompey were suddenly alive again, and then offers to punish those responsible. He is the one who actually brings the packet bearing Cleopatra to Caesar. When he opens it and finds a woman, he declares she is a bawd who hopes to destroy Caesar's honor, and pulls out his sword to kill her. When Caesar declares her a goddess, Scaeva is appalled that a soldier, especially Caesar, should speak so, and he remains of that mindset until the masque, when he cannot help admiring her beauty. However, when Caesar is dazzled by the wealth displayed, Scaeva, along with Antony and Dolabella, celebrates Caesar's apparent turn from Cleopatra. When Septimus enters, Scaeva mocks him, along with Antony and Dolabella, and then leaves. But he returns to see Septimus try to win over three poor soldiers with money, and tells them who their benefactor is, at which point they throw the money back at him. Scaeva is the one who tells Caesar that while he was trying to win back Cleopatra, the palace has been besieged. When he enters with Caesar to rescue Cleopatra from Photinus, he tells Caesar not to take even a kiss until the traitors are caught and dealt with, and Caesar obeys.


Septimus is a Roman soldier who once served Pompey but now follows Ptolemy. He agrees to assassinate Pompey and enters with the head, boasting, but is sharply reproved by Achillas for turning against his former leader. Septimus defends himself, saying that he was obeying his king's orders. He complains that men seem to have turned against him for the deed, but when Photinus offers him money for future deeds, Septimus is quick to claim that enough money will make him honorable and brave to others. He enters next richly dressed, but is quickly disabused of the notion that his new clothes and wealth will win him friends. First he is mocked by Antony, Donabella and Scaeva, who tell him he reeks of betrayal, no matter how finely he dresses. He is then rejected by Eros, who tells him that she might be a wanton, but she will not kiss a murderer. Finally, he tries to give money to three lame soldiers, who praise him for his kindness until they discover his name. Then they throw the money in his face and curse his parents. Rejected by everyone, Septimus realizes his crimes and repents. He is next seen dressed in black, telling the three soldiers his sins and asking for their prayers. However, he is quickly persuaded back to his old ways by Photinus and Achillas, who tell him that Caesar has done as bloody deeds and gained fame for them. He agrees to kill Caesar, justifying it by claiming that Rome itself was founded in blood through the murder of Remus by Romulus. However, he changes his mind, realizing that Photinus will not protect him after he has served his purpose. He therefore approaches Caesar and offers to conceal Caesar in a secret cave and that night help him kill Photinus and Achillas. Caesar, not surprisingly, does not agree to be trapped underground on Septimus' word, and instead orders Septimus hanged for treason. Septimus attempts to bribe the soldiers, but is dragged off to his death.


A "ghost character." Three soldiers talk about the dramatic change in Septimus, and the Third Soldier says that it is amazing to see Septimus cry, since when his mother died he laughed and sang. The First Soldier adds that his mother dreamed, during her pregnancy, that she would give birth to a buzzard, and therefore hated her son.


The First Soldier is one of three lame soldiers who meet Septimus after he has received his reward for killing Pompey. The First Soldier states that they are forgotten by Caesar. When Septimus gives them money, the First Soldier says he is sent by the gods, and asks his name so that they can worship him. When he finds out from Scaeva who it is, the First Soldier throws the money back, saying he wished it was heavy enough to kill Septimus and that not even a hangman or a thief would take his money. After Septimus has repented, the soldiers enter again, talking about the dramatic change. The First Soldier reveals that Septimus' parents hated him, especially his mother, because of a prophetic dream she had while pregnant. When Septimus enters, all three soldiers are moved to tears by his repentant speeches and agree to pray for his soul. After Septimus returns to his old ways and is then captured by Caesar, the First Soldier takes off his belt to hang Septimus (as ordered by Caesar), and scornfully rejects Septimus' last attempt to bribe his way to freedom, saying he deserves a much worse death than just hanging. The Second Soldier says the belt is too good for such a task as hanging. When the Second Soldier states that Septimus would make an excellent speech at the gallows, the Third Soldier comments that he should be hung just for their edification. The Third Soldier does not return for the scene where Septimus is captured and taken off to be hanged.