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 IV, Scenes 4, 5, and 6: Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518

Summary
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.

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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.

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Latest answer posted June 29, 2017, 12:01 am (UTC)

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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.

Analysis
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 day is about to follow for Antony, as, indeed, it does. The suggestion that Antony took this action to “punish” Enobarbus and to make him “smart” for this treasonous defection has no support in the text of the play or in the meager historical records available to us. That it has an evil effect on Enobarbus and, in fact, does cause him to commit suicide (or, at least, to die) does not prove, or even suggest, that Antony intended it in this manner.

In Scene 6, Octavius’ order that his commanders put into the front lines the men who have deserted to him from Antony’s forces is, yet, another illustration of the depraved condition of Octavius’ mind. Such men will be the first to die, and Antony will have to kill those who were once his own men. Nevertheless, some commanders of high integrity today might have done the same thing, were the battle being fought today. The sight of one’s own men in the enemy’s front lines might have discouraged the commander from fighting the battle at all and thus might have led to a negotiated instead of a military solution, although this possibility appears strained, at best. Highly significant here is the comment by Octavius’ (Caesar) unnamed soldier, who informs Enobarbus of Antony’s loving gesture. The soldier says, “Your emperor continues still a Jove,” comparing him to Jupiter (Jove), king of the gods in Roman mythology. It is a startling comment from a soldier in the opposing army, and another instance in which Shakespeare uses an unnamed player to utter an important line.

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Act IV, Scenes 1, 2, and 3: Summary and Analysis

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Act IV, Scenes 7, 8, and 9: Summary and Analysis