Many scholars believe it was written in 1606–07,[a] although some researchers have argued for an earlier dating, around 1603–04. Antony and Cleopatra was entered in the Stationers' Register (an early form of copyright for printed works) in May 1608, but it does not seem to have been actually printed until the publication of the First Folio in 1623. The Folio is therefore the only authoritative text today. Some scholars speculate that it derives from Shakespeare's own draft, or "foul papers", since it contains minor errors in speech labels and stage directions that are thought to be characteristic of the author in the process of composition.
Modern editions divide the play into a conventional five-act structure but, as in most of his earlier plays, Shakespeare did not create these act divisions. His play is articulated in forty separate "scenes", more than he used for any other play. Even the word "scenes" may be inappropriate as a description, as the scene changes are often very fluid, almost montage-like. The large number of scenes is necessary because the action frequently switches between Alexandria, Italy, Messina in Sicily, Syria, Athens, and other parts of Egypt and the Roman Republic. The play contains thirty-four speaking characters, fairly typical for a Shakespeare play on such an epic scale.