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

William Shakespeare

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

Summary
Scene 7 takes place on the battlefield. Several hours have passed since the last scene, and Octavius’ forces are in retreat before the victorious forces of Antony. Scarrus, although wounded, is game for more of the battle. His courage and enthusiasm greatly encourage Antony, who responds as the great military commander he once was and appears to be again now.

Scene 8 occurs a bit later, when the forces loyal to Antony realize that they have won the battle (although not yet the war). Antony sends messengers to Cleopatra to tell her of the victory and ask her to prepare to receive the heroes, particularly Scarrus, as her guests. Cleopatra appears and embraces Antony in a manner befitting a great and successful military commander. She offers Scarrus a suit of armor made of gold and prepares a victory banquet, even though the war is not yet won.

Scene 9 takes place at the edge of Octavius’ camp. Enobarbus, talking to himself, upbraids himself for his cowardly act in deserting Antony, then dies. The guards hear the monologue, listening for something that might be of use to their commander, Octavius. Then they carry off Enobarbus’ body.

Analysis
In Scene 7, Scarrus’ courage and desire to continue fighting, although wounded, greatly encourage Antony, who responds as the great military commander he once was and appears to be again now. This is another example of Shakespeare’s understanding of human psychology. Here the commanding general draws strength and courage from the courage and enthusiasm of one with a rank well beneath his own. Any experienced and high-ranking military or naval officer can tell stories of how exactly the same thing has happened to him/her—how he/she has been strengthened and encouraged by the enthusiasm and courage of just one underling.

In Scene 8, notice the pun on guests/gests (line 2), the latter word meaning, in Elizabethan times, deeds of valor. In Scene 9, a sentry is probably a lower-echelon officer, something like a centurion. The guard he commands is there to give warning if Antony should launch a surprise attack. Enobarbus’ dying speech suggests that he was dying from self-inflicted wounds, probably both internal and external. Nevertheless, it was a common supposition in Shakespeare’s day (and earlier) that one might actually die of a broken heart, given the proper circumstances, without any other cause of death.