Antony and Cleopatra - Detailed Act Summaries

  1. Act 1
  2. Act 2
  3. Act 3
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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 22-04-14 17:23

act 1 scene 1

  • play opens with Roman dissaproval of Antony's infatuation
  • Antony in conversation with Cleo - rejects empire for love
  • This scene dramatises central situation of the play in miniature
    • structured so affair seen from Roman perspective with Roman dissaproval
  • Romance shown under pressure from external sources that eventually destroy it
  • Antony's language "new heaven, new earth" "the noblest of life" suggests more than an affair of lust
  • antithesis between Rome as place of soldiers and politics where Antony was a hero "plated mars" to Egypt as a place of pleasure and indulgence.
  • Cleo emerges as a paradox - a "wrangling queen/whom everything becomes"
    • Enobarbus -"her infinite variety"
  • Philo says Antony's infatuation "O'erflows the measure", "Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch/ Of the ranged empire fall"
    • evokes the grandeur of Rome even while rejecting it
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Act 1 Scene 2

  • A fortune teller predicts the future of Cleo's maids
  • Antony hears of a succession of difficulties tgat need his attention, and he decides to leave Egypt
  • mood changes rapidly from high drama and poetry of scene 1
  • comic opening - women speak in prose - fortune teller does not offer them the bright future they wish for
  • Cleo's observation of Antony -"He was disposed to mirth; but on the sudden/A Roman thought hath struck him"
    • Egypt = mirth, banqueting, pleasure. Rome = serious business
  • bad news brought by the messengers comes to Antony in quick succession. This brings out his serious side and is contrasted with frivolity of Enobarbus who speaks in prose and in comic fashion of scene opening
  • Antony's final speech = businesslike, shows political awareness. None of extravagent language used when speaking with Cleo. Once he has made up his mind he is focused and decisive.
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Act 1 Scene 3

  • Cleopatra uses all of her wiles to persuade Antony not to leave Egypt
  • Cleo reveals herself as an actress of formiadable range - feigning illness, turning Antony's word against him, taunting and misbelieving him, making false accusations
  • she reminds Antony of his praise of their love -"Eternity was in our lips and eyes/Bliss in our brows' bent" - becomes ironic when she says "play one scene/Of excellent dissembling" - this is precisely what she is doing
  • in response to Antony's anger she accuses him of being a "Herculean Roman"
  • Antony claimed descent from Anton, son of Hercules
  • Cleo shows some dignity at the end when she apologises and bids him triumph in victory
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Act 1 Scene 4

  • Caesar denounces Antony and makes preparations to stop pompey
  • scene introduces Caesar, Antony's rival
  • Lepidus is more sympathetic to Antony than Caesar
  • Caesar makes it clear that his condemnation is political rather than moral - Antony is imperilling the triumvirate
  • Antony's behaviour shows him to be a man of poor political judgement
    • Caesar thinks clearly and acts decisively - he makes no political mistakes for the entire play
  • messenger used once again to propel action forward with news of fresh danger
    • the threat that requires military action prompts Caesar to recall the active soldier of old; his tribute to Antony is moving and authoritative - the picture of endurance and hardship it evokes strongly contrasts the earlier picture of drunken dissolution
  • Antony is raised in the audience's estimation, while the Roman view of his behaviour is confirmed and extended
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Act 1 Scene 5

Cleo muses on the absent Antony, reveals her passionate love for him and recieves news of him from Alexas

  • change of scene to Egypt and theme to love are part of the plays variety - scene varies greatly in texture and tone, reflecting mood and character of its central protagonist
  • After Cleo's request for a narcotic so she may "sleep out this great gap of time" while ANtony is away, there are comic exchanges with the ****** which reveal her emotional state and sexual longing
  • When Mardian assures her Antony has fierce passions for her "What Venus did with Mars" - marks a change of register
  • Cleo delivers first utterance of the play "O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony" - ****** connotations, aggrandisement of Antony
    • climaxes in allusion to "the demi-atlas of this earth" and continues to military language 'arm' and 'burgonet of men'
  • Serpent is an appropriate image to associate with Cleo, given its association with treachery, wisdom and mystery
  • the 'delicious poison' she speaks of in line 27 follows the image of the serpent and expresses the paradox she is indulging in conflicting emotions
  • once again a messenger is used to provide a change of focus
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Act 1 Scene 5(cont.)

  • Alexa's account of Antony's offer of an oriental pearl and kingdoms to go with it fully matches the grandeur of Cleo's imaginings
  • Cleo asks if he is happy or sad, then concludes -"The violence of either thee becomes" - draws link between her and Antony
  • Cleo's passions are shown in ehr threat to give Charmian "bloody teeth" for praising Caesar after she had been promopted to by Cleo.
  • Cleo's extravagence further shown in sending of 20 messengers to Antony, and in the violent floruish with which the scene ends "He shall have every day a several greeting/Or i'll unpeople Egypt"
  • After this scene, Antony and Cleo are fully established as a larger than life pair involved in a grand passion
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Act 2 Scene 1

Pompey contemplates the coming confrontation with the Triumvirs

  • scene forms a prelude to the meeting of the triumvirs that follows
  • exposes political divisions in the Roman world
  • Pompey clear sighted about weaknesses and rivalries in the triumvirate, also reminds us of Caesar's grievance against Antony, but also shows why Caesar needs him
  • opening confidence makes the threat he poses seem serious/urgent
  • Pompey's description of Cleo and Egypt similar to those given by Antony's soldiers and Caesar
  • Roman view = Antony has been bewitched. Cleo is described as 'salt' - lecherous
  • Pompey hopes Cleo will "tie up the libertine in a fild of feasts" and keep Antony's brain 'fuming'
  • Egypt regarded as place of libertine(immortal) pleasures and feasting - stimulating appetite at the expense of reason and honour(value associated with Rome)
  • His picture of 'libertine' Antony is dramatically interrupted by news that Antony still has the capacity for clear thought and swift action
  • Messenger once again used to great effect, propelling action forward and showing in reaction of Pompey that Antony is still most potent force in Roman world
  • Ironic that Pompey is wrong in all of his assesments: that he will be succesful, that Caesar and Lepidus are not in the field, and that Antony has become enervated by the bewitching intoxication of sensual pleasures that he will not leave Cleo
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Act 2 Scene 2

      • the triumvirs patch up their differences
      • The alliance between Antony + Caesar is cemented by Antony's agreement to marry Octavia
      • Enobarbus describes Antony's first meeting with Cleo
  • scene falls in to 2 halves obviously connected. Seems deliberate.
  • contrasting worlds of Rome and Egypt are starkly juxtaposed here more than anywhere else in the play
  • the fact that the brilliant description of Cleo comes after the meeting of the triumvirs is a stroke of art:
    • If delivered earlier, in Egypt, it would not have the same impact, where it suddenly injects life and colour of an alternate world after the tense and serious negotiations preceeding it
    • coming immediately after Antony's marriage to Octavia, who is a pawn in a business arrangement and isn't described at all - presents spellbinding magnetism of Cleopatra to which Enobarbus and Antony are bound to return
  • exotic image of Cleo that emerges is similar to the Roman view expressed before meeting with Pompey, except presented sympathetically
  • the fact that it comes from previously prose-bound Enobarbus makes it more profound
    • Enobarbus' role in the play is the truth teller. His judgement at the end shows he knows Antony as well as or perhaps better than Antony knows himself
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Act 2 Scene 3

      • Antony promises Octavia he will behave well in future
      • A fortune teller warns Antony that Caesar will always be more fortunate than he will
      • Antony decides to leave Rome for Egypt
  • At the beginning Antony makes a promise to Octavia, but by lines 40-1 he has decided to return to Egypt
  • use of soothsayer cleverly makes it seem as if Antony is in control of some greater force
  • the soothsayer, who wishes to leave Rome, may have told Antony what he wanted to hear to make him leave for Egypt
  • rare soliloquoy from Antony
    • what is foremost in his mind is not love for Cleopatra, but the fact that he cannot shine in Caesar's sphere
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Act 2 Scene 4

      • Lepidus, Maecenas, and Agrippa bid farewell en route to Misenum to face Pompey
  • brief transitional scene that has effect of keeping the main political movement of the play in the audience's mind
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Act 2 Scene 5

      • Cleo beats the messenger who has come to tell her of Antony's marriage to Octavia
  • Opening scene lightens the mood as Cleo recalls past frolics with ANtony
  • loss of control toward messenger shows her as tempestuous, even savage, but also shows true depth of her feelings for Antony
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Act 2 Scene 6

      • Pompey accepts terms of the triumvirs
      • Enobarbus predicts the undoing of Antony's marriage and his alliance with Caesar
  • the destiny of the world is settled
  • there is a lot of interpersonal rivalry and point scoring
    • the crisis that brought them in to confrontation are not debated
  • Antony's ingratitude for Pompey's courtesy are on Pompey's mind
  • Pompey can't resist taunting Antony about Cleo's relationship with Julius Caesar - Enobarbus stops him
  • Caesar says little but comes to a concise conclusion when he does speak
  • conversation between subordinates at the end confirms sense of unease that underlies relations of their masters
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Act 2 Scene 7

      • on board Pompey's galley, the triumvirs and Pompey celebrate their new found accord
  • seriousness of previous meeting between Pompey and triumvirs was trivial, so frivolity of this comic scene is shrouded by seriousness of the projected plot of Menas
  • scene casts Pompey's honour and profession of friendship in an ironic light
    • he would have been quite happy to have seen Antony dead if it was accomplished without him knowing
    • in previous scene Pompey associated himself with honourable Brutus and freedom of Republican cause for which Brutus murdered Julias Caesar
    • the scene shows he would happily have supreme power himself
  • the contrast in character between Antony who values good fellowship, and Caesar, who does not, are encapsulated in the exchange in which Antony bids Caesar "be a child 'th'time" and Caesar responds "possess it, I'll make the answer"
    • Caesar departs with the observation "our graver business/ frows at the levity"
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Act 3 Scene 1

      • Ventidius announces his defeat of the Parthians, but declines to go further
  • shows us the political world from view of subordinates
  • emphasises the degree to which their leaders are governed by concern for their reputations
    • suggests limits even to Anthony's bounty
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Act 3 Scene 2

      • the triumvirs part company
  • opening scene suggests their is little sincerity of feeling between Lepidus and triumvirs
  • Caesar sincere in his feeling for Octavia, whom he is bidding farewell
  • Octavia has little to say and seems to be merely a pawn between the 2 men
  • Caesar refers to her egotistically as "a great part of myself"
    • these remarks he addressed to Antony as a clear warning
  • Enobarbus's mocking comments about Antony's emotions, at the end, serve to suggest all might not be what it seems in the present case
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Act 3 Scene 2

      • Cleo questions the messenger about Octavia
  • learnt his lesson first time and reports Octavia as full and dowdy(un-stylish)
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Act 3 Scene 4

      • In Athens, Antony complains to octavia about Caesar's behaviour and starts making preparations for war
  • relations between triumvirs clearly deteoreated
  • Antony complains to Octavia that Caesar waged war against Pompey and slighted him in public
  • Antony prepares for war, blaming Caesar for the rift
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Act 3 Scene 5

      • Eros reports to Enobarbus the increasing power of Caesar
  • important in breakdown of relations between Antony and Caesar
  • shows Antony's desertion of Octavia is not a primary cause, for before that occurs, Caesar has been established his power.
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Act 3 Scene 6

      • In Rome, Caesar denounces the personal and political behaviour of Antony, who is now in Alexandria
  • events moving swiftly
  • previous two scene chart causes of war from Antony's perspective: this scene gives Caesar's actions and perspective
  • Caesar emerges as commanding figure who plans, acts, speaks, confidently and decisively
  • Caesar's assertion that Lepidus has grown cruel is not supported by any of Lepidus's actions presented or reported during the play - says more about Caesar than Leipidus
  • the manner in which he feels Octavia, as Caesar's sister, should have come to Rome shows a proud and ceremonious concern for his own dignity
  • Caesar does not mince words to spare his sisters feelings
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Act 3 Scene 7

      • arguements in Antony's camp and the decision to fight by sea
  • Caesar's speed of action contrasted with arguement and confusion in Antony's camp
  • Antony goes against solid advice from his generals and men and decides to fight at sea, despite offering no evidence why they should do so.
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Act 3 Scene 8+9

  • Caesar issues command to not fight on land until sea battle is over
  • Antony tells Enobarbus to place troops in sight of Caesar's battle lines
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Act 3 Scene 10

      • account of the first defeat at Actium
  • defeat is due to sheer stupidity of Cleo and Antony, their "very ignorance"
  • fight was evenly balanced/ in Antony's favour, but Cleo flees "like a cow in June stung by a gadfly"
    • Antony follows her "like a doting mallard"
  • Cleo's fickleness + Antony's infatuation are the entire cause of their undoing
  • contempt of their followers is expressed in their use of disease and animal imagery - pestilence, leprosy, nag, cow, mallard
  • Antony's behaviour seen as betrayal of his manhood, honour, leadership - causes others including Canidius to leave his post
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Act 3 Scene 11

      • despairing Atony visited by penitent Cleopatra
  • Antony's lowest point in the play
  • recognises he has betrayed and defeated himself - "I have fled myself" - and is in emotional, physical, moral dissaray "for indeed I have lost command"
  • for the first time he is honest with himself - shows concern for his followers and a forgiveness for Cleo
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Act 3 Scene 12

      • Antony seeks to make terms with Caesar, who sends Thidias to negotiate a treaty with Cleopatra
  • Caesar doesn't allow sentimentality to interfere with his political interest
  • shows low opinion of women in his calculation - thinks they are weak in misfortune
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Act 3 - Scene 13

      • Antony has Caesar's messenger whipped
      • Antony determines to fight on

lines 1-85

  • mportance of opening part is Cleo's reactions
  • Cleo is cool and restrained - in contrast to Antony's scorn and contempt for Caesar, who he vainly challenges to single combat.
    • she treats Caesar's messenger with respect despite his lack of ceremony when he approaches
  • She speaks charmingly of Caesar - "he is a God, and knows/what is most right"
  • she is playing a political game and is quick to yield to new realities -"I kiss his conquering hand"
  • Cleo shown to show political cunning, while Antony's folly is made clear when Enobarbus says in an aside that he has lost his judgement.
    • second aside he questions remaining loyal to a fool, but recognises that the person who keeps faith with a defeated master -"does conquer him that did conquer his master/And earns a place i'th'history" - he conquers fortune in the noble manner of stoic.
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Act 3 Scene 13

  • never see Cleo weighing moral consequences
  • Enobarbus ironically earns place in history for choosing interest over honour and then living to regret it

Lines 85-152

  • Antony's reaction shows his less noble side
  • his treatment of Thidias recalls Cleo's similar treatment of the messenger in Act 2 Scene 5
  • parallel suggests similarity in their passionate natures that are easily provoked beyond control
  • beating of Thidias is shocking - further blot on Antony's tarnished honour
  • his anger may have origins in genuinely deep feelings for Cleo
  • Cleo's motives not entirely clear
  • Enobarbus present for most of scene and comments on the actions and judges the characters - mirrors his larger role in play up to the point
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Act 3 Scene 13

Lines 153-200

  • congrinuity between extremity of language used and the extremity of the situation
  • Antony accuses Cleo of complicity of Caesar, accuses her of cold heartedness - the extravagence of her reply, culminating in the "pelleted storm", impresses Antony so much that he forgives her.
  • Antony's assertion that he will kill in the upcoming battle as many as death does in time of plague is clearly hyperbolic.
    • causes Enobarbus to use corresponding hyperbole when he remarks Antony will "outstare the lightning"
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