The foreword to the author’s text is a fragment from the book of the Greek historian Appian of Alexandria (II century) “Syrian wars”. The events described in the play date from the middle of the second century. BC. E., when the kingdom of the Seleucids was attacked by the Parthians. The prehistory of the dynastic conflict is set forth in the conversation of Timagena (the tutor of the twin priests Antiochus and Seleucus) and his sister Laonica (the confidante of Queen Cleopatra). Timagen knows about the events in Syria by hearsay, as the mother queen ordered him to hide both sons in Memphis immediately after the alleged death of her husband Demetrius and the rebellion raised by the usurper Trifon. Laonica, however, remained in Seleucia and witnessed how the people, unhappy with the rule of the woman, demanded that the queen enter a new marriage. Cleopatra married her brother-in-law Antiochus, and together they defeated Tryphon. Then Antiochus, desirous of avenging his brother, attacked the Parthians, but soon fell in battle. At the same time, it became known that Demetrius was alive and in captivity. Stung by the betrayal of Cleopatra, he planned to marry the sister of the Parthian king Fraat Rodogun and forcefully regain the Syrian throne. Cleopatra was able to rebuff the enemies: Demetrius was killed – according to rumors, the most queen, and Rodogun was in prison. Fraat threw a myriad army on Syria, however, fearing
The conversation is interrupted with the appearance of the prince Antiochus. He hopes for his lucky star and at the same time does not want to deprive Seleucus. Having made a choice in favor of love, Antiochus asks Timagena to speak with his brother: let him reign by abandoning Rodoguna. It turns out that Seleucus wants to relinquish the throne in exchange for the princess. The twins swear to each other in eternal friendship – there will be no hatred between them. They took too hasty a decision: Rodogun should be reigning with his older brother, whose name will be called by his mother.
The alarmed Rodoguna shares doubts with Laonica: the queen Cleopatra will never give up the throne, nor will she refuse revenge. The day of the wedding conceals another threat: Rodogun is afraid of a marriage union with the unloved. She is dear to only one of the princes – a living portrait of her father. She does not allow Laonike to name the name: passion can give itself out as a blush, and people of the royal family should hide their feelings. Whatever heaven chooses for her as husbands, she will be faithful to duty.
The fears of Rodoguna are not in vain – Cleopatra is angry. The queen does not want to give up power, which went to her too dearly, besides she has to crown with the crown the hated rival who stole from her Demetrius. She frankly shares her plans with the faithful Laonike: the throne will receive that of the sons who will avenge their mother. Cleopatra tells Antiochus and Seleucus about the bitter fate of their father, who was killed by the villain Rodoguna. The birthright must be earned – the eldest will be indicated by the death of the Parthian princess.
Stunned brethren understand that the mother offers them to find a crown at the price of a crime. Antiochus still hopes to awaken the good feelings in Cleopatra, but Seleucus does not believe in this: the mother loves only herself – in her heart there is no place for the sons. He proposes to appeal to Rodogun – let her be elected tsar. Parthian princess, warned by Laonika, tells the twins about the bitter fate of their father, murdered by the villain Cleopatra. Love must be won – her husband will be the one who will avenge Demetrius. Dejected Seleucus tells his brother that he refuses the throne and Rodoguna – bloodthirsty women have repulsed his desire to both reign and love. But Antiochus is still convinced that the mother and the beloved can not resist the tearful entreaties.
When Antiochus comes to Rodogun, he betrays himself in her hands – if the princess is burning with revenge, let him kill him and make his brother happy. Rodogun can no longer hide his secret – her heart belongs to Antiochus. Now she does not demand to kill Cleopatra, but the treaty remains unbreakable: in spite of the love of Antiochus, she will marry the elder – for the king. Inspired by success, Antiochus hurries to his mother. Cleopatra meets him sternly – while he hesitates and hesitates, Seleucus has had time to take revenge. Antiochus admits that they are both in love with Rodogun and are not able to raise their hand: if the mother considers him a traitor, let him order him to commit suicide – he will submit to her without hesitation. Cleopatra is broken by the tears of her son: the gods are supportive of Antiochus – he is destined to receive power and a princess. Immensely happy Antiochus leaves, and Cleopatra tells Laonica to call Seleucus,
Cleopatra tells Seleucus that he is the elder and rightfully owns the throne, which they want to take over Antiochus and Rodoguna. Seleucus refuses to take revenge: in this terrible world, nothing seduces him any more – let others be happy, and he can only wait for death. Cleopatra realizes that she lost both sons – the damned Rodogun bewitched them, as before Demetrius. Let them follow their father, but Seleucus will die first, otherwise an imminent revelation awaits her.
There comes a long-awaited moment of wedding celebration. The Cleopatra’s armchair stands below the throne, which means its transition to a subordinate position. The queen congratulates her “dear children”, and Antiochus and Rodoguna sincerely thank her. In the hands of Cleopatra, a cup of poisoned wine, from which the bride and groom should take a sip. At the moment when Antiochus brings the goblet to his lips, Timagene bursts into the hall with a terrible news: Seleucus is found in the park alley with a bloody wound in his chest. Cleopatra suggests that the unfortunate committed suicide, but Timagen denies this: before his death, the prince managed to tell his brother that the blow was caused by “an expensive hand, his own hand.” Cleopatra immediately blames the murder of Seleucus Rodogun, and that – Cleopatra. Antiochus is in painful meditation: “dear hand” indicates the beloved, ” like a Selevka, the tsar is experiencing a moment of hopeless despair – having decided to surrender to the will of fate, he again brings the goblet to his lips, but Rodogun demands that the wine offered by Cleopatra be tested on the servant. “The queen indignantly declares that she will prove her complete innocence. After taking a sip, she hands the goblet to her son, but the poison acts too fast, Rodokhun with a triumphant gesture to Antiochus, as his mother turned pale and staggered, the dying Cleopatra curses the young couple: let their union be disgusted, jealousy and quarrels they will be presented to them by the gods of the same respectful and obedient sons as Antiochus, and then the queen asks Laonique to take her away and thus rid herself of the last humiliation-she does not want to fall at the feet of Rodoguna.-Antiochus is filled with deep sorrow: the life and death of the mother equally frighten him-the future is fraught terrible troubles. The marriage ceremony was over, and now we need to begin the funeral service. Perhaps heaven will still be supportive of the unhappy kingdom.