illustration of Antony and Cleopatra facing each other with a snake wrapped around their necks

Antony and Cleopatra

by William Shakespeare
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Act III, Scenes 2, 3, and 4: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 485

Summary
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.

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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 hear. The will credits Antony with precious little kindness. He has given little or no credit to Antony in his speeches to the citizens of Rome. Octavia, seeing a potential conflict developing between her husband and her brother, seeks to go to Rome and reconcile the two men before full-scale war breaks out between them. Antony grants Octavia’s wish to return to Rome.

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Analysis
In Scene 2, the net effect of the discussion between Agrippa and Enobarbus is to denigrate Lepidus, his dwindling status heightened by how extravagantly he pours praises on the other two triumvirs.

In Scene 3, no direct comparison is made between Cleopatra’s beauty and that of Octavia; the scene portrays Cleopatra’s jealousy, but also suggest that Cleopatra’s love for Antony is, after all, real.

In Scene 4, Antony’s anger that Octavius (Caesar) has undertaken action against Pompey without consulting Antony and without his help, and that Antony has published his “will,” for all practical purposes, cements the fact that war between the two men is imminent. Antony grants Octavia’s wish to return to Rome, probably because he knows armed conflict is to ensue, and he wants to spare Octavia. In this case, his desire to spare his wife, Octavius’ sister, is at least as much a motivation as his desire to be with Cleopatra. Antony is still fully capable of selfless thought of others, whether they deserve such magnanimity, as did Octavia, or whether they don’t.

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Act III, Scene 1: Summary and Analysis

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Act III, Scenes 5, 6, and 7: Summary and Analysis