By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

6. Antony and Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare, pp. 225-270

Antony and Cleopatra (Arden Shakespeare, 3rd Series)[4.1 -- Location: Caesar's camp outside Alexandria]

Enraged by Antony's treatment of Thidias and the challenge to personal combat, not to mention by Antony's calling him "boy," Caesar prepares for "the last of many battles / We mean to fight."

[4.2 -- Location: Alexandria]

Enobarbus tells Antony that Caesar declines single combat, so he prepares for what he thinks may be his final battle, calling together the servants to say farewell: "Haply you shall not see me more, or if, / A mangled shadow. Perchance tomorrow / You'll serve another master." Enobarbus scolds him for making them weep, so Antony puts on a façade of "just joking" that cheers up no one.

[4.3 -- Location: Alexandria]

Soldiers on watch hear strange music -- "Music of hautboys is under the stage" -- and interpret it as the sound of Hercules abandoning Antony.

[4.4 -- Location: Alexandria]

Eros brings Antony his armor, and with a little impatient instruction -- "False, false! This, this!" -- he allows Cleopatra to help him put it on. His captains and soldiers enter and after a farewell kiss from Cleopatra he leaves with them.

[4.5 -- Location: Alexandria]

Antony meets the soldier who in 3.7 had urged him not to fight that battle at Actium by sea. "Would thou and those thy scars had once prevailed / To make me fight at land!" Antony tells him. The soldier agrees that if he had done so, there would not have been so many desertions, including, he now reveals to Antony, Enobarbus. Antony is startled by the news, and when he hears that Enobarbus left his personal belongings -- "his chests and treasure" -- he tells Eros to send it to him. He laments, "Oh, my fortunes have / Corrupted honest men!" and his last word before he makes his exit is "Enobarbus!"

[4.6 -- Location: Caesar's camp outside Alexandria]

Enobarbus, now on Caesar's side, hears him order that Antony be taken alive, and boast that "The time of universal peace" -- the pax romana -- "is near." A messenger arrives to say that Antony is on the battlefield, and Caesar orders that the men who used to be Antony's followers be put at the front of the soldiers in battle, "That Antony may seem to spend his fury / Upon himself."

Hearing this, Enobarbus reflects on Caesar's cruelty, having also learned that when Antony sent Alexas to negotiate with King Herod, Alexas switched sides and persuaded Herod to abandon Antony. "For this pains / Caesar hath hanged" Alexas. Enobarbus now realizes, "I have done ill," a fact that is confirmed when a soldier tells him that "Antony / Hath after thee sent all thy treasure, with / His bounty overplus. Wounded by this generous response to his treason, Enobarbus calls himself "the villain of the earth.... This blows my heart." Instead of going to fight against Antony, he resolves to "go seek / Some ditch wherein to die."

[4.7 -- Location: The battlefield outside Alexandria]

Antony's troops have won the battle, and he enters with the wounded Scarus, whom some identify as the soldier in 4.5. Scarus, as Wilders observes, replaces Enobarbus as Antony's battle-mate.

[4.8 -- Location: Alexandria]

Antony returns to Cleopatra in triumph, to rest and prepare for battle again the next morning. He praises Scarus and tells her to give him her hand to kiss. He orders the trumpeters to "blast ... the city's ear" -- the last triumphant moment for Antony in the play.

[4.9 -- Location: Caesar's camp outside Alexandria]

The sentries observe Enobarbus enter and overhear his last words:
                                                  O Antony, 
Nobler than my revolt is infamous, 
Forgive me in thine own particular, 
But let the world rank me in register 
A master-leaver and a fugitive. 
O Antony! O Antony!
He collapses, and the watchmen go to see about him. One thinks, "The hand of death hath raught him," but another believes, "He may recover yet."

[4.10 -- Location: the battlefield outside Alexandria]

Antony and Scarus look for places where they can observe the naval battle that Caesar has chosen to initiate.

[4.11 -- Location: the battlefield outside Alexandria]

Caesar observes that Antony's best forces have been diverted to the ships.

[4.12 -- Location: indefinite]

Antony chooses a new place to watch the sea battle, while Scarus reflects that the omens are not good for the battle, and that Antony seems uneasy about the prospects. Antony returns to proclaim, "All is lost!" and to blame the defeat on Cleopatra, whom he denounces when she appears. She will, he predicts, be forced to follow Caesar's chariot and have her face clawed by Octavia's nails. She leaves without responding, and he goes in search of Eros.

[4.13 -- Location: Alexandria]

Stung by Antony's anger, Cleopatra follows Charmian's advice that they retreat to the monument, one of several fortified tombs she had built in the city. She asks Mardian to go to Antony with word that she has committed suicide, and that her last word was "Antony."

[4.14 -- Location: Alexandria]

Distraught, Antony believes that he is disintegrating: "Here I am Antony, / Yet cannot hold this visible shape." Cleopatra, he tells Eros, has "false-played my glory / Unto an enemy's triumph." Mardian brings the false news of Cleopatra's death. Antony sends him away, and asks Eros to help him remove his armor, then to leave him alone for a while. He now vows his own suicide, imagining a reunion in the afterlife with Cleopatra where they will attract the other ghosts' attention away from Dido and Aeneas.

He calls Eros back and reminds him that "when I should see behind me / Th'inevitable prosecution of  / Disgrace and horror, that on my command / Thou then wouldst kill me. Do't. The time is come." Eros is reluctant, so Antony asks if he wants to see him exhibited in disgrace by Caesar. Eros pretends to agree to kill him, but instead kills himself. Antony then falls on his sword, but fails to kill himself. He calls out for the guard and asks them to finish the deed, but they refuse. One of the guards, Dercetus, picks up the sword and carries it off, planning to use it to curry favor with Caesar.

Finally, Diomedes enters, and when Antony begs him to kill him, tells Antony that he has come from Cleopatra, who has changed her mind about the decision to tell Antony that she is dead. Diomedes calls for the guard, who carry Antony to the monument.

[4.15 -- Cleopatra's monument]

Cleopatra and her attendants are "aloft," which some scholars interpret as the upper gallery of the Shakespearean stage, though the exact nature of the original staging of the scene is still a matter of controversy. Diomedes and the guard enter with the dying Antony, who is hoisted up to Cleopatra. North's Plutarch is the source of the detail about lifting Antony to the top of the monument, though by following it Shakespeare introduced some awkwardly complicated stage business. Line 19, "I am dying, Egypt, dying," is repeated at line 42, and there is some speculation that the intervening lines were written to allow a director some flexibility in staging, depending on how long it took to accomplish the hoisting.

Once aloft, Antony is concerned to prepare Cleopatra for dealing with Caesar, to trust no one but Proculeius, but Cleopatra isn't inclined to trust anyone. He speaks of being "a Roman by a Roman / Valiantly vanquished," and died. Cleopatra observes that "there is nothing left remarkable / Beneath the visiting moon," and faints. Iras thinks she has died, but Charmian revives her, and Cleopatra vows to bury Antony "after the high Roman fashion / And make death proud to take us."
The 1974 Trevor Nunn production:

The 1981 Jonathan Miller production:

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