What Is the Summary of “All for Love” by John Dryden?

“All for Love” is a tragedy reminiscent of a Shakespearean drama, presented in a classical theatrical style. It was alternately titled, “The World Well Lost” and was first acted and printed in 1677. Some scholars compare the play to Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” in that it tells of the tragic final hours of the two famed lovers.

The main characters, or “Dramatis Personae,” are Antony, Cleopatra, Ventidius, Dolabella, Alexas and Octavia. In Act 1, Serapion, a priest, foretells of ominous omens, while others express concern about Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship. One of them is Ventidius, a Roman general, who offers Antony troops to leave her. Though Antony is insulted by the offer, he nonetheless accepts.

In Act 2, Cleopatra is devastated by Antony’s refusal of her and goes to great lengths to win him back. Despite Ventidius attempting to dissuade her, she is successful, and Antony proclaims his love for her.

Act 3 sees the return of Antony’s friend Dolabella, who brings with him Antony’s estranged wife, Octavia, and their two daughters. Octavia tells Antony that if he returns to her, then the war between he and Caesar will stop, and he may return to his rightful place. Antony agrees, and Cleopatra attempts to interfere with their reunion, including an argument with Octavia.

In Acts 4 and 5, Antony believes returning to Rome is the right action, but he does not want to tell Cleopatra, so he sends Dolabella. Through a plot by Ventidius, Antony is nearly convinced that Cleopatra and Dolabella are romantically involved. When he expresses his desire to find Cleopatra innocent, Octavia leaves him. Nonetheless, Antony does not believe Cleopatra’s claims of innocence and leaves for Rome. Hearing of his impending return with the fleet, Cleopatra and Alexas flee and part ways. Antony is about to fight Ventidius, when Alexas arrives and tells them Cleopatra is dead. Ventidius kills himself, and Antony attempts to do the same. Cleopatra arrives, only to see Antony right before he dies from his self-inflicted wounds. Cleopatra then kills herself, and a eulogy from Serapion follows.