Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
After his humiliating defeat at Actium, Mark Antony retires to Alexandria, Egypt, where he remains in seclusion for some time in the temple of Isis. He avoids meeting his mistress, Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, whose cowardice largely caused the defeat. Meanwhile the Romans, under Octavius, Maecenas, and Agrippa, have invaded Egypt, where, having laid siege to Alexandria, they calmly await Antony’s next move. Serapion, a patriot and a priest of Isis, becomes alarmed at a sudden rising of the Nile and by prodigious disturbances among the royal tombs; these events seem to presage disaster for Egypt.
Ventidius, Antony’s trusted and highly successful general in the Middle East, comes at this time to Alexandria to aid his commander. Alexas, Cleopatra’s loyal, scheming eunuch, and Serapion try to encourage citizens and troops with a splendid birthday festival in Antony’s honor. Ventidius, in Roman fashion, scorns the celebration. He tells Antony’s Roman soldiers not to rejoice, but to prepare to defend Antony in his peril. Antony, clearly a ruined man, at last comes out of his seclusion. While he curses his fate and laments the day that he was born, Ventidius, in concealment, overhears the pitiful words of his emperor. Revealing his presence, he attempts to console Antony. Both men weep; Antony marvels that Ventidius can remain faithful to a leader who brought a large part of the Roman Empire to ruin through his love for Cleopatra.
(The entire section is 1060 words.)
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