Act 1 Scene 1
This opens with the major issues being addressed straight
away; Antony's "dotage" is causing a conflict between his
military, political, Roman self and his personal, Egyptian
self. Cleopatra is the cause of this and the problem is encapsulated
in the lines
"you shall see in him
The triple pillar of the world transformed
Into a strumpet's fool"
As if to prove the truth of Philo's assertion, A & C
enter talking about love, with C exercising her manipulative
powers over A, causing him to renounce and disown his political
and Roman affiliations-
"Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch
Of the ranged empire fall! Here is my space."-
and claim that true "nobleness of life" lies in personal
The issue of Antony's "self" arises here; C. claims that
"Antony will be himself" and Philo analyses the situation
"sometimes, when he is not Antony,
He comes too short of that great property
Which still should go with Antony."
This issue of who exactly Antony is will recur throughout
Act 1 Scene 2
We see the luxurious and decadent aspect of Egypt, and the
conflict between what Egypt represents and what Rome stands
for can be seen in C's line
"He was disposed to mirth, but on the sudden
A Roman thought hath struck him."
It becomes clear that A is aware of the problems caused
by his stay in Egypt and regrets them. We get the sense, however,
that he is as much a victim as an instigator of this situation.
He perceives himself as a man imprisoned and in danger of
losing his identity. The key lines here are
"These strong Egyptian fetters I must break,
Or lose myself in dotage."
Again with the dotage!
The news of Fulvia's death brings the seriousness of the
situation even closer to home, and he insists, maybe to himself,
"I must from this enchanting queen break off." The notion
of C as an enchantress, binding A with fetters, will also
A seems aware of C's manipulative nature - "She is cunning
past man's thought"- and regrets being brought into her sphere
of influence - "Would I had never seen her!" The scene ends
with A moving into Roman, political mode. The efficient, purposeful
language contrasts sharply with the languor of his earlier
speech with C.
Act 1 Scene 3
C's manipulative nature is revealed further, but we get
the sense that this may be borne of desperation to maintain
her grip on A. Do we hear a sense of panic in the line "What
should I do, I do not" C is certainly a mistress of the art
of man management. I love the stichomythic (!) way that A
is not allowed to get a word in edgeways between lines 16
& 39. C is playing the wronged woman card for all it is
worth, but A's Roman-ness(?) is just able to hold out against
her. His language moves between determined formality : "Hear
me, Queen"; passionate frustration: "You'll heat my blood
- no more!" and tenderness:
"Our separation so abides and flies
That thou, residing here, goes yet with me;
And I, hence fleeting, here remain with thee."
Despite my well documented cynicism about A, I actually
respond well to him here; he is presented as a rounded and
therefore torn personality, and in this, perhaps, lies his
Act 1 Scene 4
We're in political, scheming Rome now, and the weakness
of A is under discussion. The idea of A's fatal flaw is introduced
by Lepidus, who refers to A's faults as
"Rather - what he cannot change
Than what he chooses."
This would certainly fit with the idea of fetters, enchantment
Caesar's complaints against A are both personal and political.
He feels A's personal behaviour is demeaning, but even if
it weren't, it means A is neglecting his duty, a very Roman
"yet must Antony
No way excuse his foils, when we do bear
So great a weight in his lightness."
His analogy of A to a boy choosing immediate gratification
over wisdom is an encapsulation of A's Egyptian/Roman dilemma.
Nevertheless, we see Caesar's admiration of the Roman A. who
was able to undergo hardships in battle
"so like a soldier that (his) cheek
So much as lanked not."
Act 1 Scene 5
C. is thoroughly OTT in this scene, but her genuine affection,
nay, passion for A. is effectively conveyed. The scene is
very sexual in its references, indicating perhaps the source
of C's power over A..
Act 2 Scene 1
We're back in the Roman world and the language is much more
formal and structured than in the previous, Egyptian scene.
The vocabulary focuses on "justice" rather than passion. Pompey's
political analysis, however, is wrong, and Pompey's response
to the fact that A. is on the move demonstrates his respect
fro A's military greatness:
"his soldiership / is twice the other twain."
The final exchange between Menas and Pompey reminds us that
the rapprochement between Caesar and A. may not hold :
"they have entertained cause enough / To draw
Act 2 Scene 2
We're back to the question, who is Antony? What brings
us there is Enobarbus' response to Lepidus ,"I shall entreat
him / To answer like himself." Enobarbus clearly sees A's
real self as the powerful, military one:
"If Caesar move him,
Let Antony look over Caesar's head
And speak as loud as Mars."
Lepidus, despite being, technically, one of the "triple
pillars", is merely a go-between in the power struggle between
A & Caesar. This paves the way for his later elimination
(Caesar and A. enter from different points on the stage,
thus dramatically signalling their opposition.)
His placatory speech to the other two is packed with contrasts
- "great/leaner"; "gently/loud"; "murder/healing"; "sourest/sweetest"
- again indicating the fundamental , and maybe irreconcilable,
nature of their opposition.
Though A. and Caesar speak formally and courteously to one
another, the stichomythic (got that word in again!) exchange
which takes place on line 28 is, in fact, another power struggle,
reminiscent of Yasser Arafat and the Israeli PM (can't remember
his name) trying each to be last through the door at the peace
talks. It's what's called a power tell. Ask me and I'll tell
you all about it. Clinton used to do it all the time, even
beating Tony Blair on home soil! Anyway, Caesar proceeds to
lay allegations at the feet of A. which seem rather trumped
up to start with- "Of this, my letters/ Before did satisfy
you" - but become more serious when we see that A's obsession
is at the heart of them; Caeasr accuses A. of breaking an
oath to help him in need. A. replies that he did not deny,
And then when poisoned hours had bound me up
From mine own knowledge."
This is interesting because it both revisits the idea of
A's identity and shows his awareness of C's deleterious effect
on him; we can add "poisoned hours" to "enchanting queen"
and "strong Egyptian fetters".
Antony and Caesar patch up their quarrel, but Enobarbus'
words - "you shall have time / to wrangle in when you have
nothing else to do" show an awareness of political realities
which even Caesar has to accept -
"for't cannot be
We shall remain in friendship, our conditions
So differing in their acts."
Caesar accepts the fundamental opposition of his and A's
characters, and sees that this will inevitably end in conflict.
Given this understanding, his acceptance of Agrippa's suggestion
that Octavia should be the "hoop should hold (them) staunch"
seems even more the cynical action of a politician than that
of a loving brother. (It would be fun, one day, to write something
on brother/sister relationships in Shakespeare's plays. Well,
I think so, anyway!)
Note how little a role Lepidus has had to play in all this.
When he is next mentioned it's almost as an afterthought,
as though A. just remembers in time that he exists. If I were
staging this, they'd already be almost offstage before A.
turned and spoke these lines. The fact that Caesar doesn't
say them might indicate that Lepidus is already a non-player
from Caesar's point of view.
The conversation which follows, between Enobarbus and Maecenas,
contains the famous barge speech and sharply reminds the audience
of what temptations lie behind in Egypt which might so easily
derail this new found peace between A and Caesar. The language
is sensual and exotic and we feel, like Enobarbus, that A.
must remain enslaved to C., especially when all Octavia can
offer is "beauty, wisdom, modesty". If that's what A. wanted,
he'd never have fallen for C in the first place.
Act 2 Scene 3
This exchange between A and Octavia establishes that the
marriage has been made. The tone between them is considerably
more formal than that between A and C, and when the soothsayer
predicts that Caesar will always best A, in any contest, the
die is cast in favour of C. A's lines
"I will to Egypt;
And though I make this marriage for my peace,
I - the East my pleasure lies"
show that his mind is made up. We have to ask ourselves
whether, had the soothsayer spoken otherwise, A's Roman identity
would have won out; does he only choose to be his Egyptian
self when he sees no prospect of being dominant as his Roman
Act 2 Scene 4
Not much to say about this scene. It just reminds us of ongoing
Act 2 Scene 5
We're back in Egypt again, so lots of sensual language and
sexual innuendo. This is where we learn of the night C got
a drunk, took his sword and dressed him as a woman. C doesn't
seem to see this as anything more than a game, but we can
read it as a metaphor of her theft of his Roman identity,
her unmanning of him, especially as she takes his sword, with
all its phallic overtones.
When the messenger arrives we see C's unreasonable, emotional,
Egyptian response to his news. We also see the strength of
her feelings for Antony, whom she both loves and hates -
"Let him for ever go! - Let him not, Charmian:
Though he be painted one way like a Gorgon,
The other way's a Mars."
Act 2 Scene 6
Meanwhile, back in Italy, politics goes on between the triumvirs
and Pompey. Their underlings, represented by Menas and Enobarbus,
see that much is being lost: "Pompey doth this/ day laugh
away his fortune."
They see the reality of events, rather than the surface:
I think the policy of that purpose made more in the marriage
than the love of the parties.
I think so too. But you shall find the band that seems to
tie their friendship together will be the very strangler of
Indeed, Enobarbus states things very clearly in lines 118
to 122, and we are becoming used to trusting Enobarbus, who
seems to fill the role of A's fool, with a licence to see
clearly and say the things which no-one else dares. Enobarbus
is not a fool in any other sense, though, just in the way
he fulfils this role of getter-away-with-things.
Act 2 Scene 7
This is a banquet and drinking scene in which we see Lepidus
being mocked and sidelined by A and Caesar- and even Menas
and Enobarbus. So much for being a triple pillar. As well
as this minor cruelty, we see Menas suggesting a deception
to Pompey which Pompey's honour cannot allow him to assent
to now that he knows of it in advance. This may raise questions
as to what Roman honour is really worth. It seems that even
Roman feasts are tainted with politics; Rome never wholly
abandons itself to pleasure.
Act 3 Scene 1
Still politics and the Roman Empire, though we're actually
in Syria. Here, A's underlings discuss the fact that much
of their superior success stems from their deeds. Perhaps
this undermines our perception of A's military greatness,
raising again the question of who A actually is.
Act 3 Scene 2
In Rome. Agrippa and Enobarbus make snide comments about
the new relationship between A and Caesar (arguably "What,
are the brothers parted?" can be read in this light) and Lepidus.
Caesar parts with Octavia, and his words to A show what
he expects to happen. The vocabulary used is military; Octavia
is a weapon. The stichomythic exchange between A and Caesar
in line 34 suggests edginess and lack of trust. Given that
we know of A's plans, we can understand this atmosphere. We
may wonder what it is that Octavia is whispering to Caesar.
A makes a great show of love to both Octavia and Caesar but
this is undermined by the asides between Enobarbus and Agrippa
in which A's integrity is questioned : "What willingly he
did confound, he wailed"
Act 3 Scene 3
Back in Egypt. The messenger comes again to C. who wants
to know details of her rival in love. This shows C in a new
light, that of insecure lover. We can almost (or actually,
if we're Becky) pity her at this point, as she is so bereft
and so desperate to convince herself that "He cannot like
her long" and that "This creature's no such thing." She appears
at this point as a vulnerable rather than a manipulative woman,
and we may begin to see that her manipulation arises from
Act 3 Scene 4
This scene is set in Athens. Do we believe in A as the husband
who feels himself wronged by his brother in law? The lines
seem convincing enough, and his offer to allow Octavia to
do what she chooses could be seen as generous, except that
we know of A's intention to hotfoot it off to Egypt asap.
The issue of honour, that Roman obsession is raised again,
with A claiming "If I lose mine honour / I lose myself." What
is honour? He seems to mean public reputation, since that
is what he feels Caesar is denying him. A more 21st century
eye might feel that his personal behaviour and choices are
deceitful and dishonourable, and it is in that respect that
he has lost himself. Of course, Shakespeare did not possess
a 21st Century eye.
Act 3 Scene 5
News breaks of Caesar's betrayal of Lepidus. Surprise, surprise!
Enobarbus speaks prophetically again of the inevitable breakdown
of the A / Caesar relationship:
"Then, world, thou hast a pair of chaps, no
And throw between them all the food thou hast,
They'll grind the one the other."
Act 3 Scene 6
Back in Rome, Caesar has heard of Antony's return to Egypt
where, it would seem, he has been making political gestures,
maybe trying to locate his personal and political selves in
one realm rather than splitting himself into two, when one
self will always be secondary to Caesar.
Caesar takes Octavia's arrival as an opportunity to further
his political ends, whilst playing the devoted and outraged
brother. The thing is, his assessment of A's willingness to
give permission Octavia return to Rome-
"Which soon he granted,
Being an abstract 'tween his lust and him"
is actually accurate.
Octavia's role as a pawn in all of this is highlighted by
her rather pathetic closing words, "Is it so, sir?" which
is the last we hear of her.
Act 3 Scene 7
By contrast, C. is very active, not pawn like at all. If
we are A. fans we could wish she took a more passive role,
since it is her influence which causes A. to go wrong, as
Enobarbus predicted -
"Your presence needs must puzzle Antony,
Take from his heart, take from his brain, from's time
What should not then be spared."
Maybe it is because of this plain speaking encounter with
Enobarbus that Cleopatra exerts her influence over A. causing
him to dig his heels in and fight at sea against all seasoned
professional advice. A's retorts to his colleagues" well reasoned
advice are childish in their stubborn brevity, as if he knows
he has no real arguments and so resorts to 'shan't". A's plans
are hasty and ill judged.
Act 3 Scene 8
In contrast, Caesar is disciplined and in control.
Act 3 Scene 9
A's plan is to react to Caesar, not to be pro-active; he
will always be one step behind.
Act 3 Scene 10
Disaster! At the peak of battle, when they were neck and
neck, with any discernible advantage being with A., C. took
fright and scarpered, followed by A. The description of A.
as a "noble ruin of her magic" flying after her "like a doting
mallard" reminds us of A's own references to enchanting queens
and losing himself in dotage.
Scarus clearly feels A.has lost himself -
"Experience, manhood, honour, ne'er before
Did violate so itself"
and Canidius agrees-
"Had our general
Been what he knew himself, it had gone well."
So, the question of A's identity is raised once more, but
now he appears to be no-one. Enobarbus remains loyal.
Act 3 Scene 11
A himself realises that he has lost himself:
"I am so lated in the world that I
Have lost my way forever."
And what about "I have fled myself"? Is he saying that he
himself has fled, or that he has fled from himself, or both?
He sends his followers away and seems to be planning suicide.
On C's entrance his speech smacks of madness in its disjointed
chaos. His responses to her demonstrate his total obsession
with her. Earlier we wondered whether he was politicking and
making rational relationship choices, but his words in lines
56 to 61 indicate that he had become a man without choices.
He seems now to have changed his mind about suicide and is
talking about negotiating with Caesar. Is this because of
Act 3 Scene 12
We see evidence of Caesar's cunning - he plans to alienate
A. and C. It would appear that he still sees A.as a potential
threat, however, as he insists that a close eye be kept on
Act 3 Scene 13
A learns of Caesar's offer to C that she can have safety
if she turns him in, and challenges Caesar to single combat.
Enobarbus sees this as further evidence that A. is losing
"Caesar, thou hast subdued
His judgement too!"
and begins to question the wisdom of his continued loyalty,
yet still decides to hold fast to A. (lines 41 - 46)
When Caesar's messenger arrives we wonder which way C. is
going to jump. Enobarbus seems to believe that C. is really
betraying A. - "Thy dearest quit thee." A., too, concludes
that C. is betraying him, and this provokes a rage which her
behaviour in the battle did not. This is a personal betrayal,
he thinks, and perhaps we see in the level of his responses
who he really is and what really matters to him. He comes
through his rage to a belief in C. which gives him renewed
hope, yet we may not fully believe C's lines
"Since my lord
Is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra."
Is he A. again? Enobarbus certainly doesn't think so-
"I see still
A diminution in our captain's brain
Restores his heart."
It is at this point, when Enobarbus perhaps sees A. as no
longer being A., that he decides to leave. For us as audience,
this sets the seal on A's doom, as Enobarbus is the character
whose judgement we have trusted throughout.
Act 4 Scene 1
In the camp of Caesar. Caesar's cunning is shown in his
plan to defeat A. with his own recently deserted men. Are
his last words in this scene sincere or sarcastic? I'd go
for sincere; he knows he has to finish A., however much he
admires him and regrets the necessity.
Act 4 Scene 2
This is a sentimental scene in which A. bids goodbye to
his companions. His question to Enobarbus, "Woo't thou fight
well?" reminds the audience of the choice Enobarbus has already
made but not yet carried through. Maybe we wonder how many
other of A's supposedly loyal followers are going the same
Act 4 Scene 3
Supernatural events seem to tell against A. -
"'Tis the god Hercules, whom Antony loved
Now leaves him."
Act 4 Scene 4
This time, far from stealing his armour and manhood, C.
helps A. into it. Maybe she is helping him to rediscover himself,
or maybe that's being really romantic and fanciful - not like
me at all!
Act 4 Scene 5
A .learns of Enobarbus' desertion and behaves with integrity
and dignity, acknowledging his own blameworthiness -
"O, my fortunes have
Corrupted honest men."
Maybe A. really has found himself. This response is so unlike
the vindictive A. who, in 3:13;147 - 151 suggests that if
Caesar doesn't like his actions, he can take it out on Hipparchus,
that we may see a man who has found his true and better nature.
Act 4 Scene 6
Caesar really is planning to let A. kill all his own first:
"Plant those that have revolted in the vant,
That Antony may seem to spend his fury
We learn from Enobarbus that none of A's deserters are being
treated with any respect by Caesar. This, and the discovery
of A's magnanimity persuade Enobarbus that he has made a wrong
choice and must kill himself. Do we like Caesar slightly more
because of his lukewarm welcome of A's traitors? Do we see
him as a man doing what is politically expedient but not necessarily
Act 4 Scene 7
A. seems to be doing well in this battle. A last gasp of
hope? Suspense is built up. A.C Bradley would say that this
is classic tragic structuring.
Act 4 Scene 8
A.and C. are triumphantly reunited. Is this all too good
to be true?
Act 4 Scene 9
Juxtaposed with the suicide of Enobarbus, reminding us of
the nobility of A when he is being A.
Act 4 Scene 10 & 11
The decision is taken to fight by sea...again! Do we feel
that it will just be a replay of last time?
Act 4 Scene 12
It is just a replay of last time. What really hurts A.,
though, is not his military loss but what seems to be Cleopatra's
betrayal. The words "charm", "gypsy" and "spell" all remind
us of the notion that she has enchanted him away from himself.
Act 4 Scene 13
C. sends a message to A. that she is dead, hoping this will
blunt his fury. This reminds us of her manipulative tricks
when we first meet her in 3:1.
Act 4 Scene 14
The message arrives and has the desired effect - too much
so as A. decides life without C. is not worth living: "All
length is torture." A. demands that Eros kill him , but instead
Eros kills himself, leaving A. to fall on his own sword. The
timing here is crucial; C.'s second set of messengers arrive
after the death blow has been despatched, but before A.is
dead, to give maximum heart wrenching tragic impact.
Act 4 Scene 15
A.is at the bottom of the monument, C.at the top, unwilling
to risk capture by coming down, hence the hauling of the dying
A. up to the top. You see, this makes me dislike C. and consider
her weak and selfish. I'm not sure that's the proper response,
though. However, inspired by A. she too decides to kill herself
"what's brave, what's noble,
Let's do it after the high Roman fashion,"
Is there an irony in the fact that she made him Egyptian
in life and he makes her Roman in death? Is this a kind of
final blurring of identity boundaries? No? It's just me, then.
Act 5 Scene 1
Caesar hears of A.'s death and I rather like his respectful
"The breaking of so great a thing should make
A greater crack."
and his regret that
Unreconciliable, should divide
Our equalness to this."
However he remains the politician in his determination that
C. becomes his trophy:
"Her life in Rome
Would be eternal in our triumph",
and this rather sours our impression of him.
Act 5 Scene 2
Is Proculeius in on the plan to catch C.unawares? If so,
does this comment on Roman honour? (actually, I don't think
C.is determined not to become a public spectacle, and in
particular not to be "chastised with the sober eye / of dull
Octavia." Ever the siren, she manages to charm Dolabella into
revealing Caesar's humiliating plans for her. Another humiliation
comes from her treasurer, Seleucus, who will not lie for her.
Is it this prospect of humiliation rather than the loss of
A. that causes C. to choose death? She has already arranged
for the asp to be brought, though.
The clown is a comic character whose wordiness delays the
denouement and builds suspense. In this he is like Dogberry
in Much Ado about Nothing. The untimely and inappropriate
comic element introduced here serves to heighten the tragedy
and raise the discomfort level of the audience.
The death of Iras (name sounds a lot like Eros, A's faithful
servant. Deliberate parallel?) and suicides of C. and Charmian
bring everything to a neat but emotional close. Caesar, at
the last, is presented as acting honourably:
"She shall be buried by her Antony.
No grave upon the earth shall clip in it
A pair so famous."
I'm not sure about Caesar. Maybe his personal instincts
were always in competition with his political ones but, unlike
Antony, he always had the personal under political control.
Maybe he can afford to indulge his personal admiration now
that A & C pose no political threat. I go back to 5;1
35 - 48, especially
"I must perforce
have shown to thee such a declining day
Or look on thine - we could not stall together
In the whole world."
I get the sense that A. and Caesar represented different
possibilities, different life choices - back to the Rome /
Egypt dichotomy around which this whole play has been revolving.
A. could so easily have been like Caesar, were it not for
the enchantment of C. At the end of the play, do we feel that
she enabled him to find himself, or lured him away from himself?