Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT II, SCENE 6
Shakespeare had read in Plutarch how Sextus Pompeius, Antony, and Octavius Caesar had met together by the mount of Misena. He builds the two concluding scenes of Act II from this information. As this scene opens, the three Triumvirs are meeting with Pompeius. It is obvious that the Triumvirs have previously sent their terms and conditions for a peace treaty to Pompeius. They have agreed that Sicily and Sardinia can stay under the control of Pompeius if he clears the seas of his pirates and sends needed wheat to Rome.
As the men talk, Caesar and Antony are making it clear that they have the upper hand, for they possess a mightier army and a superior naval fleet. Pompeius seems to know that the wisest decision for him is to accept the terms of the treaty. He admits that he is mentally prepared to accept the offer of the Triumvirs, but he mentions that his patience has been tested by the presence of Antony, for whom he had recently done a favor. He alludes to the fact that during the civil war between Caesar and Lucius, incited by Fulvia, he had granted shelter to Antony's mother when she fled to Sicily. To appease Pompeius, Antony thanks him for his generosity. Pompeius then invites the Triumvirates to a feast aboard his ship. Before they depart, Pompeius recognizes Enobarbus and praises his military skills.
Enobarbus is left alone with Menas, and the two men assess the current state of affairs. Menas claims that Pompey the Great would never have accepted the terms of the Triumvirates' treaty. He regrets that an imminent battle has turned into a feast. When Enobarbus tells Menas that Antony has married Octavia, Menas comments that Caesar and Antony are now "forever knit together." Enobarbus, however, prophesies that Antony will leave Octavia and return to Cleopatra, his "Egyptian dish." He further predicts that "the band that seems to tie their friendship together will be the very strangler of their amity."
This scene further depicts Caesar, Antony, Lepidus, and Pompeius. The four men are meeting to hammer out the final terms of a peace treaty between them. The Triumvirs have agreed that Pompeius can maintain control of Sicily and Sardinia if he clears the seas of his pirates and sends much needed wheat to Rome. Pompeius indicates that he is mentally prepared to accept the terms of the treaty.
As the Triumvirs hold discussion with Pompeius, the leader of an uprising against them, they show their true characters. Caesar is depicted as a ruthlessly cold and calculating politician who enters into a treaty of convenience with Pompeius. It seems that he has no real intention of keeping the terms of the treaty. Antony is much calmer than Caesar and commands respect from Pompeius with his demeanor. Lepidus is again depicted as the weak link; the only remark that he makes is "well met here." Pompeius is also depicted as a weak character. He accepts the terms of the treaty without a fight. Menas later comments that Pompey the Great would never have accepted the treaty.
Although Cleopatra is not present in the scene, there are frequent references to her and to Egypt.
Enobarbus prophesies that Antony will desert Octavia and return to Cleopatra, causing a breach between himself and Caesar. The prediction is a clear foreshadowing of what will transpire later in the play and alludes to the impending tragedy.