Act III, Scenes 8-11: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 548

New Character: Scarrus: Roman soldier and friend of Mark Antony

Summary 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,...

(The entire section contains 548 words.)

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New Character:
Scarrus: Roman soldier and friend of Mark Antony

Summary
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.

Analysis
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 to win the war. Scene 9 serves simply as a transition scene, in which Antony gives some orders about the placement of troops.

In Scene 10, however, Enobarbus and Scarrus discuss the total rout of the ships. At this point the audience learns of Antony’s disastrous defeat, which they were, or at least should have been, expecting. The appearance of Camidius confirms the scope of the disaster. Antony foolishly accepted a dare that put him and his troops at a severe disadvantage; he did not deserve to win.

In Scene 11, Cleopatra’s excuse for running away is invalid; it in no way mitigates her cowardice (and immaturity) in allowing her ships to turn tail and run from the battle. But Antony’s reply that she should have known he’d follow her is an equally invalid excuse on his part. The truth of the matter is that she should not have run away, and that, even if she did run away, he should never have chased her while the battle was still raging. It is a sad indication of how far Antony has fallen from his once lofty status as one of the world’s most competent soldiers.

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

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Act III, Scenes 12 and 13: Summary and Analysis