Summary of the Play
After the battle at Philippi, Antony went to Egypt and began a romance with Cleopatra. Messengers from Rome arrive at Cleopatra’s court, demanding Antony’s immediate return to Rome to aid in the fight against Sextus Pompeius and upbraiding him for his dereliction of the official duties of a triumvir. Antony argues that he is not needed in Rome, but he does return and marries Octavius’ sister Octavia. A meeting between Pompey (Sextus Pompeius) and the triumvirs results in a standoff, in which Pompey gets the islands of Sicily and Sardinia in return for ceasing the attack on Rome and the piracy in the Straits of Messina. Antony and Octavia move to Athens. Later, Octavia, aware a serious controversy is arising between her husband and her brother, returns to Rome to try to heal the breach.
Octavius, seeking to become the sole emperor, puts Lepidus in prison and dares Antony to fight him on the sea. Antony, against the advice of all his advisers, accepts the dare, counting on Cleopatra’s ships to assist him. Cleopatra’s ships turn tail and run. Antony chases the ship carrying Cleopatra and deserts his own troops at the front, giving Octavius a major victory.
Octavius offers munificent terms of surrender to Cleopatra, with promises that he has no intention of keeping once he has taken over Egypt. Dolabella, one of Caesar’s henchmen, warns Cleopatra that Octavius will parade her and her attendants through the streets of Rome as booty of war.
An angry Antony, wrongly informed that Cleopatra is dead, tries to commit suicide but succeeds only in severely wounding himself. His personal guardsmen carry him to the queen, and he dies in her presence. Cleopatra and her two closest attendants, Charmian and Iras, commit suicide by allowing asps to bite them. Octavius (Caesar) finds the three women dead. He orders a huge state funeral for the pair to be attended by all Octavius’ army before he sails for Rome.
Estimated Reading Time
This is one of Shakespeare’s longer plays, so reading time should be at least one hour for each of the five acts. Many students will require seven hours for the entire play. This is a play that rewards careful, unhurried reading. Ideally, it should be read in one or two sittings, with occasional referral to the text notes and this study guide, but three or even four sittings is entirely feasible.
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
After the murder of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire is ruled by the noble triumvirs Mark Antony, Lepidus, and Octavius (Caesar’s nephew). Antony, given the Eastern sphere to rule, goes to Alexandria and there he sees and falls passionately in love with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. She is the flower of the Nile, but she is also the mistress of Julius Caesar and many others. Antony is so enamored of her that he ignores his own counsel and the warnings of his friends. As long as he can, he also ignores a request from Octavius Caesar that he return to Rome. Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, and a powerful leader, is gathering troops to seize Rome from the rule of the triumvirs, and Octavius Caesar wishes to confer with Antony and Lepidus. At last the danger of a victory by Sextus Pompeius, coupled with the news that his wife Fulvia is dead, forces Antony to leave Egypt and return to Rome.
Because Antony is a better general than either Lepidus or Octavius, Pompeius is confident of victory as long as Antony stays in Egypt. When Pompeius hears that Antony is returning to Rome, he is reduced to hoping that Octavius and Antony will not mend their quarrels but continue to fight each other as they did in the past. Lepidus does not matter, since he sides with neither of the other two and cares little for conquest and glory. Pompeius is disappointed, however, for Antony and Octavius join forces in the face of common danger. To seal their renewed friendship,...
(The entire section is 1100 words.)
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Summary and Analysis
Act I, Scenes 1 and 2: Summary and Analysis
Philo: friend of Mark Antony
Cleopatra: Queen of Egypt
(Mark) Antony: triumvir of Rome
Messenger: one of several carrying messages between Rome and Egypt. Other messengers appear during the play; none are named
Demetrius: friend of Mark Antony
Charmian: attendant of Cleopatra and, apparently, the queen’s favorite attendant
Alexas: friend of Cleopatra and Mark Antony and sometimes the unofficial representative of Antony when he cannot be present at Cleopatra’s court
Soothsayer: accurately predicts the future and warns Antony to beware of Octavius
Iras: attendant of Cleopatra
(Domitius) Enobarbus: Roman soldier and friend of Mark Antony
Mardian: a eunuch attendant of Cleopatra
Other attendants, soldiers, etc., sometimes unnamed
In Scene 1 at Cleopatra’s court in Egypt, Demetrius and Philo are discussing the idle behavior of their beloved friend and general. Cleopatra and her attendants enter with Antony. A message arrives from Octavius and Lepidus demanding Antony return and help them in their fight against the son of Pompey the Great. Antony refuses to receive the messengers, but Cleopatra urges him to hear the message. He refuses. She knows that Fulvia (Antony’s wife) is a rival, with a greater claim on Antony than she has, even though she is the queen.
(The entire section is 1244 words.)
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Act I, Scene 3: Summary and Analysis
Scene 3 takes place later that day in Cleopatra’s court. Cleopatra is talking of taunting Antony; Charmian warns her against antagonizing him. Antony enters, talks with Cleopatra and tries to find a way to tell her he must go to Rome, at least for a short time. Suspecting the worst, she accuses him of “treason,” although possibly with tongue in cheek. She feigns sickness, hoping to keep him in Egypt and asks him why she should think he’d be true to her when he was false to his wife. Antony has trouble getting even a word in edgewise, as Cleopatra continues her tantrum. Finally he is able to explain that he must return to Rome because his wife is dead. Sextus Pompeius’ forces, which hold Sicily, and whose pirates Menas and Menecrates have been terrorizing shipping through the Straits of Messina, is threatening to march on Rome itself.
Grasping hold of herself, Cleopatra assures Antony of her heartfelt love for him, accepts his decision, wishes him Godspeed, and suggests that life will be difficult for her without him.
Cleopatra’s moods shift (whether truly or feignedly) to the annoyance of Antony. The audience begins to wonder if Cleopatra has the innate ability to love anyone other than herself. Often she acts more like an adolescent girl than like an adult, possibly because she has been a queen for so long, and almost always has her own way. She cannot bear anyone denying her what she...
(The entire section is 353 words.)
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Act I, Scenes 4 and 5: Summary and Analysis
Octavius (Caesar): triumvir of Rome, later to become Augustus Caesar
Lepidus: triumvir of Rome
Scene 4 takes place at Octavius’ house in Rome, before Antony returns from Cleopatra’s court. Octavius (Caesar) and Lepidus discuss Sextus Pompeius’ challenge. Pompeius’ pirates control the Straits of Messina and nearby waters between Sicily and the Italian peninsula. Octavius condemns Antony for his wanton behavior and dereliction of his duties as a triumvir, but Lepidus attempts, weakly, to defend him.
In Scene 5, at Cleopatra’s court after Antony’s departure to Rome, Cleopatra and her attendants discuss the existing situation. Cleopatra is thinking of Antony so much that even Charmian chides her for doing so. The queen receives Alexas, an emissary from Antony, and promises to write to Antony every day.
Scene 4 marks the beginning of a downward spiral for Lepidus that leaves him incapable of any meaningful action, and hence no longer in command of his third of the empire. Later, after Antony has left Rome for Athens, Octavius and Lepidus act in a manner so antagonistic to Antony’s interests (by abrogating the treaty with Pompey and launching a military attack on him, and by denigrating Antony in public speeches) that it becomes apparent that the only possible result can be open warfare against Antony.
This scene is the first...
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Act II, Scenes 1 and 2: Summary and Analysis
Pompey: Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, and now the leader of a rebellion against the triumvirate that is sufficiently serious to cause great concern among the triumvirs
Menecrates: friend of Pompey
Menas: friend of Pompey
Varrius: friend of Pompey
Mecenas: friend of Octavius. Occasionally confused with Menas
Agrippa: friend of Octavius (Caesar)
Ventidius: friend of Antony and commander of one of Antony’s armies
Octavia: sister to Octavius, wife of Antony
Scene 1 takes place at Pompey’s home in Messina, Sicily. The scene opens with Pompey’s men discussing the situation just as the first act opened with Antony’s men discussing the situation among themselves before Antony made his appearance.
At the absolute insistence of Octavius, Antony had returned to Rome. Pompey’s insurrection was the primary reason that Octavius and Lepidus wanted Antony back in Rome; Pompey was a real threat and was becoming more so each day. Pompey discusses with his friends the existing military situation concerning his revolt against the triumvirate. Varrius arrives with the news that Antony is expected momentarily in Rome. In a rather arrogant and pompous speech, Pompeius denigrates Antony by calling him an amorous surfeiter, but admits that Antony’s “soldiership is twice the other twain” (i.e., twice as...
(The entire section is 1338 words.)
Act II, Scenes 3, 4, and 5: Summary and Analysis
Scene 3 takes place in Rome, at the home of Octavius. The Soothsayer who made the oblique predictions in Egypt of Octavius’ rise and Antony’s fall makes that prediction explicit. He tells Antony that in every instance where he and Octavius are involved in any controversy, Octavius will always win, and he urges Antony to return to Egypt as soon as possible and keep away from Octavius. Antony sends his officer, Ventidius, to Parthia to enter into a campaign that will prove successful and convince the world of the futility of opposing the triumvirate.
Scene 4 takes place on a street of Rome just as the triumvirs are about to leave for the campaign against Pompey in Sicily. Lepidus tells Agrippa and Mecenas that he will be delayed a couple days before he can leave Rome, but that he will meet them in Sicily.
The location of Scene 5 changes abruptly to Cleopatra’s palace in Egypt. Alexas is still there, as Antony’s unofficial representative during his absence in Rome. Cleopatra jokes with Charmian and Mardian about how she played a trick on Antony and, while he was drunk, dressed him in women’s clothes. This forms a bit of comic relief, but a messenger arrives from Rome, and all levity comes to an instant halt. Cleopatra fears that the message is that Antony is dead. Cleopatra queries the messenger and learns that Antony has married Octavia. Furious, she mauls the messenger and orders him whipped. Once she has quieted...
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Act II, Scenes 6 and 7: Summary and Analysis
Boy: a singer
Scene 6 takes place near Messina, Sicily, where Pompey’s ships are anchored. The triumvirate talks with Pompey, hoping to negotiate peace and thus save both sides from losing thousands of men in the fighting. Antony agrees to negotiate with Pompey “on the sea,” where Pompey is especially strong, so as not to threaten him during the negotiations.
Both sides have taken some hostages to prevent treachery by either side. The triumvirate has offered Pompey the islands of Sicily and Sardinia if Pompey agrees to call off his pirates and give up his designs on Rome itself. Pompey reminds Antony that Antony is living in Pompey’s father’s house, which he took without paying for it. Also he mentions the first tryst between Antony and Cleopatra, in which the queen was hidden in a rolled up mattress and brought into Antony’s quarters, without anyone else being aware of the matter. Enobarbus, aware that these veiled taunts might break up the meeting and result in all-out war, tries, successfully, to change the subject of the conversation.
Much to the distress of Pompey’s henchman, the pirate Menas, Pompey accepts and invites all to his galley for a “state dinner” to seal the agreement. After the principals leave the stage, Enobarbus and Menas discuss the situation, telling each other how they see the matter. They jocularly accuse each other of thievery—Menas on...
(The entire section is 724 words.)
Act III, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis
Silius: friend of Antony and soldier in Antony’s army commanded by Ventidius
Scene 1 takes place in Syria, probably on a plain near the battlefield. Ventidius, commanding Mark Antony’s army, has won a significant battle against Orodes, king of Parthia. His troops bear the body of Pacorus, Orodes’ son, as a symbol of victory. (The battle constituted revenge against the Parthians for the treacherous murder of Marcus Crassus, a member of the first triumvirate of Rome.) Ventidius is urged to pursue his triumph to conquer adjacent regions, but he refuses, citing the danger of promoting himself and possibly eclipsing his general, Antony. Doing that has proved dangerous before with other generals, and Ventidius wants no part of that here. He has done his duty and is ready to return home, but he wants Antony to understand that his army was so successful because they were well paid and well cared for, something that could not be said for many armies of that day.
This act illustrates the point where rising action ends and falling action begins. In most Shakespearean plays that point occurs somewhere in the third act, with two acts yet to follow. That is a contrast to the situation in modern drama, where rising action usually continues until later in the play—often to somewhere in the final act. In Antony and Cleopatra, surprises continue to occur until the very end of...
(The entire section is 513 words.)
Act III, Scenes 2, 3, and 4: Summary and Analysis
In Scene 2 at Octavius’ house in Rome, Agrippa and Enobarbus are discussing Lepidus. They comment about how greatly Lepidus loves Octavius (Caesar), how greatly he loves Antony, and then on which he loves more. Octavia and her husband Antony are taking leave of Octavius, enroute to Athens. Octavius weeps at the parting; Octavia is his sister, and he is concerned for her welfare. Octavius’ lines tell Antony that he does not trust him. Antony asks Octavius not “to offend him with distrust,” but Octavius does not back down. Octavia cannot reconcile her emotions with her speech, as Antony himself points out. Antony and Octavia depart for Athens.
Scene 3 takes place at Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria. Cleopatra, overcome with insecurity now that she has a real rival in Octavia, tries to find out as much as she can about Antony’s new life and especially about Octavia. The messenger from Rome has seen Octavia and tries to answer Cleopatra’s questions. The comments of those with the queen, however, tend to be directed to what they think will please her, rather than to what the actual situation is.
In Scene 4 at Antony and Octavia’s house in Athens, Antony is angry that Octavius (Caesar) has undertaken action against Pompey without consulting Antony and without his help, thus breaking the treaty the triumvirs made with Pompey. Also, he is furious that Antony has published his “will” for the Roman people to...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Act III, Scenes 5, 6, and 7: Summary and Analysis
Eros: friend and servant of Mark Antony
Towrus: second in command of Octavius’ army
Camidius (Canidius): second in command of Antony’s army
In Scene 5 at Antony’s house in Athens, somewhat later in the day than the previous scene, Enobarbus and Eros discuss the existing political situation, primarily as it concerns Octavius and Antony. Octavius has seized and imprisoned Lepidus—that after the two triumvirs had fought a successful campaign against Pompey.
Scene 6 takes place in Rome, just after Octavia has arrived from Athens. Octavius (Caesar) receives Octavia and tells her that Antony has greatly wronged her and has enlisted the help of many nations in a forthcoming war against him—a considerable overstatement at best. Octavius is angry with Antony for not providing a sufficient escort for so great a woman as Octavia—a totally invalid charge, because Antony had offered her as much of an escort as she desired.
In Scene 7 at Antony’s camp in Actium, Greece, Enobarbus and Cleopatra discuss the situation. Enobarbus urges Cleopatra to return to Egypt. He explains that she will distract Antony’s attention from the crucial matter at hand—defeating Octavius (Caesar) if a battle ensues. In an analogy, he says that a stallion cannot properly devote himself to his master and rider if there are mares in the pasture with him. The stallion, even with the...
(The entire section is 843 words.)
Act III, Scenes 8-11: Summary and Analysis
Scarrus: Roman soldier and friend of Mark Antony
Scene 8 takes place in Greece near Actium. Octavius warns his commander, Towrus, not to strike Antony by land until after the battle at sea. The future of the conflict depends on this battle plan. Nearby, in Scene 9, Antony gives some military orders to Enobarbus concerning the placement of troops so that the sea battle can be observed.
In Scene 10 , which takes place at Actium, several hours later, Enobarbus and Scarrus discuss the total rout of the ships. All of Cleopatra’s navy has turned tail and run southward toward Peloponnesus and the battle appears lost. Even loyal Scarrus says that Antony’s actions in chasing after Cleopatra’s ship was an unparalleled act of cowardice and dereliction of duty, unequaled in any war. Camidius enters and confirms the disaster.
In Scene 11, Antony leaves his forces and chases after Cleopatra, who is aboard her fleeing flagship. Eventually he catches her. It is not certain whether the reunion occurs in Egypt or on the Peloponnesus, but the latter seems more probable. In total dejection, and ashamed of himself for chasing Cleopatra and her navy instead of remaining with his men, he advises his soldiers to give up and go to Octavius (Caesar). Cleopatra’s attendants urge her to comfort Antony, which she does. Antony tells those soldiers faithful to him to take the ship laden with gold which...
(The entire section is 548 words.)
Act III, Scenes 12 and 13: Summary and Analysis
Dolabella: friend of Octavius (Caesar)
Thidias: friend of Octavius
Scene 12 takes place at Octavius’ camp. Antony has sent his children’s schoolmaster to Octavius—perhaps a final insult to the victor, whom Antony always has called a mere boy. The emissary asks that Antony be allowed to live in Egypt, or, if not Egypt, as a private man in Greece. Cleopatra agrees to submit to Octavius’ rule. Octavius refuses to grant Antony’s request but gives the emissary a favorable answer to Cleopatra, providing only that she drive Antony from Egypt or kill him. Then he sends his own emissary, Thidias, to Antony and Cleopatra. Thidias is authorized to offer Cleopatra any terms he thinks appropriate.
Scene 13 takes place at Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria, where she and Antony have returned following the disastrous sea battle. After Antony’s defeat, Cleopatra asks Enobarbus, “Is Antony or we at fault for this?” “Antony,” Enobarbus answers, for Antony would “make his Will Lord of his Reason.”
Antony, aware of Octavius’ terms that the price of Cleopatra’s safety is his own destruction, writes Octavius a letter, challenging him to a sword duel to settle the matter, rather than destroy thousands of soldiers in a final battle. Thidias arrives and tells Cleopatra that Octavius knows that she took up with Antony through fear of him, not love of him.
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Act IV, Scenes 1, 2, and 3: Summary and Analysis
Scene 1 takes place at the camp of Octavius and his forces, near Alexandria. Octavius (Caesar) receives the letter from Antony, resents that Antony has called him “Boy,” and refuses to fight a duel with him. Mecenas wisely suggests that Octavius take full advantage of Antony’s angry and irrational behavior and be careful not to become angry himself. Octavius mentions that enough men have defected from Antony’s forces to assure Octavius’ victory.
In Scene 2 at Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria, Antony learns from Enobarbus that Octavius will not fight a duel with him. He discusses the coming land battle and invites his friends to a lavish dinner. He bids his leaders farewell and alludes to the “last supper” Jesus ate with his disciples, another anachronism. Enobarbus upbraids Antony for the defeatist speech to his comrades, but Antony insists he did not mean it in that manner. Notice Cleopatra’s “asides” to Enobarbus, asking what Antony meant by his words.
Scene 3 takes place where some soldiers are keeping watch near Cleopatra’s palace. The soldiers hear sounds of revelry, apparently coming from beneath the pavement where they are standing. One soldier says that it is the sound of Hercules, from whom Antony claimed descent, now leaving him. They agree it is an ominous omen for Antony.
For a day and a half, Antony begins to resemble the great Mark Antony of his...
(The entire section is 1048 words.)
Act IV, Scenes 4, 5, and 6: Summary and Analysis
In Scene 4 at Cleopatra’s palace in Egypt the next morning, Eros and Cleopatra are helping Antony don his armor as they discuss the prospects of the day. Cleopatra retires to her chamber, and Antony and his men go forth into battle.
Scene 5 takes place on the battlefield just before the battle begins. Antony learns that his close friend Enobarbus has deserted to Octavius. With a show of magnanimity, he sends Enobarbus’ trunk and “treasure” to him in Octavius’ camp.
At Octavius’ camp in Scene 6, Octavius orders his men to take Antony alive. Octavius also has ordered his commanders to put the men who have deserted to him from Antony’s forces into the front lines, so that they will be the first to die and Antony will have to kill those who were once his own men. Enobarbus, informed that Antony has sent him his possessions, cannot believe it and tells the messenger he may have them. The messenger assures him that it is true, and Enobarbus is stricken to the core by Antony’s love and magnanimity.
In Scene 4, Antony’s lines are among his finest in the play and represent the old or “real” Antony as he sets out for battle. In Scene 5, Antony’s loving gesture in sending Enobarbus his possessions is typical of the old Antony and suggests that he has regained the stature he once had as the commanding general of the triumvirate’s forces. It suggests that a good and successful...
(The entire section is 518 words.)
Act IV, Scenes 7, 8, and 9: Summary and Analysis
Scene 7 takes place on the battlefield. Several hours have passed since the last scene, and Octavius’ forces are in retreat before the victorious forces of Antony. Scarrus, although wounded, is game for more of the battle. His courage and enthusiasm greatly encourage Antony, who responds as the great military commander he once was and appears to be again now.
Scene 8 occurs a bit later, when the forces loyal to Antony realize that they have won the battle (although not yet the war). Antony sends messengers to Cleopatra to tell her of the victory and ask her to prepare to receive the heroes, particularly Scarrus, as her guests. Cleopatra appears and embraces Antony in a manner befitting a great and successful military commander. She offers Scarrus a suit of armor made of gold and prepares a victory banquet, even though the war is not yet won.
Scene 9 takes place at the edge of Octavius’ camp. Enobarbus, talking to himself, upbraids himself for his cowardly act in deserting Antony, then dies. The guards hear the monologue, listening for something that might be of use to their commander, Octavius. Then they carry off Enobarbus’ body.
In Scene 7, Scarrus’ courage and desire to continue fighting, although wounded, greatly encourage Antony, who responds as the great military commander he once was and appears to be again now. This is another example of Shakespeare’s understanding of...
(The entire section is 391 words.)
Act IV, Scenes 10, 11, and 12: Summary and Analysis
Scene 10 takes place near Antony’s headquarters, the following morning. Antony is surveying the situation to determine how to handle the second day of the battle. He notes that Octavius is preparing for a sea battle. Antony is fighting his battle on earth and water and wishes he also could fight Octavius in air and in fire. Scene 11 has only four lines as Octavius (Caesar) views the situation from a point near his camp. Octavius tells his troops his best advantage, after yesterday’s defeat, is to attack by sea.
In Scene 12 at a vantage point overlooking the sea where the battle is to be joined, Antony and Scarrus see Cleopatra’s ships desert and go to Octavius’ side. Antony knows that their treachery ends his chance for a victory. He blames Cleopatra for ordering the treachery and calls her a whore. He orders Scarrus to tell his forces to give up the battle, then he launches into a bitter tirade against Cleopatra. When she appears, he tells her to leave immediately, or he’ll kill her. She leaves.
In Scene 10, a foreshadowing of disaster for Antony is revealed in an expression of his overconfidence. In his day, people believed there were only four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Antony, fighting his battle on earth and water, wishes he also could fight Octavius in air and in fire. This statement has been taken as Shakespeare’s prophecy that battles of the future would be fought in...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Act IV, Scenes 13 and 14: Summary and Analysis
Diomedes: attendent of Cleopatra
Decretas (Dercetus): friend of Mark Antony
Scene 13 takes place in Cleopatra’s palace. Cleopatra tells Charmian that Antony has gone insane. Indeed, this is a reasonable conclusion, considering the emotional manner in which Antony has been speaking. Then, at Charmian’s suggestion, she tells Mardian to tell Antony that she is dead and to report back to her, at her monument (which was built as her tomb), how Antony takes this news.
Scene 14 takes place on a promontory near Cleopatra’s palace, overlooking the battlefields and probably also the harbor where the sea battle took place. Antony discusses with Eros the tragedy of his defeat. Mardian arrives with (false) news that Cleopatra died with Antony’s name on her lips. Antony, in a bit of bitter comic relief, has been comparing himself to a shadow on the water. Antony now asks Eros to fulfill an old promise to kill him, assuring him that by killing Antony, it is Octavius (Caesar) that he will defeat. But Eros kills himself instead. Antony praises Eros as a worthier man than himself, then tries to commit suicide by falling on his own sword, but botches the job. Decretas sees Antony in his near-dead condition with his bloody sword nearby. He realizes that if he carries this sword to Octavius (Caesar) he will earn himself forever a seat in Octavius’ court, so he does so.
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Act IV, Scene 15: Summary and Analysis
This scene takes place in Alexandria, at Cleopatra’s monument, which contains the tomb she has built for herself. Antony has been brought to the monument. He begs Cleopatra to come down and kiss him before he dies, but she refuses, saying it’s too dangerous. But she and her attendants manage to hoist Antony up to where Cleopatra is. Antony and Cleopatra exchange a few lines before he dies. In his typical spirit of magnanimity, Antony tells Cleopatra to seek both her honor and her safety with Octavius. She protests that, here, honor and safety are incompatible. Cleopatra vows to give Antony a real Roman funeral.
In Scene 15, Cleopatra protests, after Antony has told her to seek honor and safety with Octavius (Caesar), that, here, honor and safety are incompatible—a line that shows her in a favorable light, especially to an audience of Shakespeare’s day. She has matured considerably, probably as a result of the crisis of the recent days, and determines to kill herself. In Elizabethan times, suicide was considered an honorable act; thus, Cleopatra, in making and carrying out this determination, exhibits a maturity that has been severely lacking in her character up to this point.
(The entire section is 203 words.)
Act V, Scenes 1 and 2: Summary and Analysis
Proculeius: friend of Mark Antony
Seleucus: attendant to Cleopatra (and her treasurer)
Clown: brings the deadly asps to Cleopatra
Scene 1 takes place in Octavius’ camp outside Alexandria. Octavius (Caesar) learns from Decretas that Antony is dead, the message verified by Decretas’ presentation to Octavius of Antony’s sword, stained with the triumvir’s own blood. Octavius weeps for him, uttering another of the famous Shakespearan passages: “The Breaking of so great a thing should make/a greater Crack.” He says that the world should shake to its very foundations and everything in it be upset by the death of so great a man as Antony. Afterwards Agrippa says, in another well-known passage, “But you Gods will give us/Some Faults to make us Men.” Octavius muses that it might have been Antony who became sole ruler of the world instead of himself.
A messenger from Cleopatra arrives to ask Octavius how she should prepare for whatever he should order her to do. He offers a peaceful answer, but then sends Proculeius (and Gallus, who does not speak in most extant manuscripts of this play) to Cleopatra with kind words, fearing that she, like Antony, might commit suicide. But Octavius is crafty and intends to physically seize the queen while her attention is distracted by talking with Octavius’ emissary, Proculeius (and, presumably, Gallus).
Scene 2 takes...
(The entire section is 1301 words.)