Antony and Cleopatra Act II, Scenes 1 and 2: Summary and Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scenes 1 and 2: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
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 competent as that of Octavius and Lepidus combined).

In Scene 2 at Lepidus’ home in Rome, Lepidus, in conversation with Enobarbus before the other principals enter, warns Enobarbus to be extremely careful not to stir up any quarrel between Antony and Octavius (Caesar). When Octavius and Antony enter, Lepidus urges them not to let personal differences obscure the purpose for which Antony returned to Rome. Ignoring the plea, Octavius brings up the fact that Fulvia and Antony’s brother made war on Octavius. Antony replies he had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter and that they had not asked his advice or permission.

Nevertheless, Antony pays Fulvia a kind of left-handed compliment in saying that she could not be controlled by himself or any other man. He suggests that it would be easier for Octavius to conquer the world than to control Fulvia. At this point, Enobarbus expresses a wish that all men might have wives such as Fulvia, so that the women might go to wars with the men. Here Enobarbus is making a partially sarcastic comment, suggesting that Antony and Octavius are wrangling over relatively trivial matters while a crucial problem faces them. An angry Antony silences his friend and subordinate, Enobarbus, but the soldier still gets in his cut. Octavius replies that he doesn’t mind what Enobarbus said but resents the way he said it.

Challenged by Antony to find other grounds for upbraiding him, Octavius accuses Antony of breaking his pledge to come to the aid of the other triumvirs. Here Antony’s defense is threefold: (1) his presence in Rome really was not needed earlier, (2) he had been “poisoned” by the beauty of Cleopatra and thus was not in his right mind, and (3) he had indeed returned to Rome as soon as he felt he was needed there. He apologizes for not returning sooner. He receives Lepidus’ approval for the apology. Mecenas reminds the principals that a far more important matter presses for their immediate attention.

Agrippa suggests to seal the friendship of the triumvirs, Antony marry Octavius’ sister Octavia; in short order, all agree that this should happen. Enobarbus, in the closing lines of the scene (after the other principals have left the stage), praises the grace and beauty of Cleopatra and says that Antony will never leave Cleopatra, especially for a woman such as Octavia, no matter what formalities (of marriage) might be involved.

The second act of Antony and Cleopatra continues the rising action begun in the first act. We are introduced to Sextus Pompeius and his staff, against whose as yet sporadic attack the triumvirate is attempting to hold Rome. Sextus, a son of...

(The entire section is 1,338 words.)