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 Antony had reserved for himself, and go to make their peace with Octavius (Caesar). Then he accuses Cleopatra of treachery. She pleads for forgiveness, and says she never thought Antony would try to follow her. Antony replies that she should have known he’d follow her (to the ends of the earth, if need be). Nevertheless, Cleopatra’s protestations of innocence have their effect, and Antony ceases his verbal attack on her.
The statement in Scene 8, in which Octavius tells his commander not to begin land action against Antony until after the sea battle, indicates how thoroughly Octavius is counting on the sea battle, a type of fighting in which Antony lacks experience...
(The entire section is 548 words.)