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Free Study Guide-Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare-Book Notes
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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

ACT II, SCENE 3

Summary

This brief scene presents a momentary glimpse of a partially penitent Antony. He is bidding good night to his fiancée, Octavia, and trying to convince her that he is a suitable husband. Seeming somewhat ashamed, he tells her not to believe everything that she hears about his exploits.

When Octavia departs with Caesar, an Egyptian soothsayer enters. Antony asks him whether Caesar's fortunes will rise higher than his. The soothsayer replies that Antony can never be great in the shadow of the powerful Caesar. Antony ruefully admits that the very dice seem to obey the man. Unwilling to compete with Caesar, who always seem to win, Antony abruptly decides to return to Egypt, where he can escape from his political duties and enjoy the luxuries of life. It is obvious that he still longs for Cleopatra, even though he is now betrothed to Octavia and will marry her in the near future. His lack of truthfulness or faithfulness to Octavia is one element of Antony's weakness.

To temporarily take his mind off Egypt and Cleopatra, Antony turns his thoughts to Ventidius. He plans to send him to Parthia to further Antony's eastern kingdom.

Notes

Antony is now betrothed to Octavia, the conventional, chaste, and virtuous sister of Caesar. Although he tries to convince her that he is a suitable husband, it is obvious that he is not in love with her and that the marriage is only a political arrangement to further his cause with Caesar. In truth, Antony longs to return to Cleopatra, his beloved.


The scene again emphasizes the contrasts between Rome and Egypt. For Antony, Rome is the center of politics, drudgery, restraint, and duty. In contrast, Egypt is a land of luxury and excess. It is no wonder that he longs to flee from Rome and return to the east, where he wants to expand his empire. He plans on sending Ventidius to Parthia with the purpose of winning more lands for him.

ACT II, SCENE 4

Summary

This short scene depicts Agrippa and Maecenas as they bid farewell to Lepidus, who is setting out against Sextus Pompeius. They promise to join Lepidus as soon as Antony marries Octavia and claim that they may reach Mount Misenum sooner than Lepidus since their route will be shorter.

Notes

This abrupt scene seems out of place in the play, for it does nothing to further the plot or develop the theme or characters. It is almost an encumbrance in any staging of the play.

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