This cast list is the cast list from the original production by The King’s Men in 1607. It is derived from T.J.King’s Casting Shakespeare’s Plays – London actors and their roles, 1590 – 1642.
As well as being usable for play-readings or production, the cast list provides useful information for a director thinking about directing the play:
- Antony and Cleopatra (1607) has a large speaking character list of 59 characters. This compares with the nearly contemporaneous Macbeth (41) , Coriolanus (52), and from nearly a decade earlier, Twelfth Night (18). Perhaps the success of the late-Elizabethan Lord Chamberlain’s Men allowed them to expand the size of their casts, or perhaps Jacobean fashion demanded larger casts.
- Despite this huge part list, there are really only five principal player roles: Antony (741 lines), Cleopatra (594 lines), Caesar (369 lines), Enobarbus (291 lines), and Pompey / Dolabella (150 lines). No other player has more than 100 lines. So it is quite feasible to read the play with somewhere between 7 and 10 players. The smallest ‘performable’ casting we have found so far is 10.
- Some of the doubling is interesting. Dolabella (a minor role of 35 lines) is given to the actor playing Pompey, one of the five major characters. Most of Dolabella’s lines are in Act 5 Scene 2, where Cleopatra kills herself. Dolabella is key to letting Cleopatra know what Casesar intends for her. This scene must be handled well, as it leads to Cleopatra’s death, and hence a senior actor is given the role.
- Similar considerations seem to have linked the two roles of Lepidus and Eros. As one of the three triumvirs, Lepidus obviously needs a good actor. Eros, with 35 lines, is a much smaller part, but again he is involved in the suicide of Antony in Act Four Scene Fourteen. Antony asks Eros to kill him. Instead, Eros kills himself, and then Antony commits suicide. It is obviously key that this scene is played well.
- With such a large cast, unsurprisingly there are many messengers, guards, servants, and soldiers. What is more surprising, is that 3 of the messengers, 3 of the soldiers, and 3 of the guards, appear together in the same scene. So one could use the same three actors for the three messengers, soldiers, and guards, and build some stage business between them .
- Messenger_5 (not a propitious character name) has two marvelous scenes with Cleopatra. In the first, he tells her that Antony has married Octavia, and gets beaten up for his trouble. In the second, in response to Cleopatra’s questioning, he carefully tells her what Octavia looks like, and she restrains herself from punishing him further.
- A number of minor characters have relatively few lines, but play an important role in the scene(s) in which they appear. Particularly of note are the Soothsayer, who has 30 lines, but in only two scenes, in both of which he is important, and the Clown, who delivers the asps to Cleopatra in Act 5 Scene 2.
So the original cast list can tell us quite a bit about the play, and we hope to explore this with other plays as we publish them, or update them to MFFEV5 format.
But of course, this cast list can also be used for play-readings or performance. It requires 25 players to read Antony and Cleopatra and is performable. Each player, selects the Player No they’ve been allocated, and can choose to read their parts in Highlit text format, or Parts and Cues, as the prefer; The cast list is as follows: