Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT II, SCENE 7
This scene opens with the feast aboard Pompeius' ship. Servants enter and discuss the pitiable state of Lepidus, whom they judge to be a nonentity. In spite of the fact that he has drunk too much, Lepidus is in his element as he tries to contain the hostilities between the leaders.
During the feast, Pompeius is reluctantly whisked aside by Menas, who whispers that Pompeius could become the master of the world if he is permitted to murder the guests, who are now all half-drunk. Pompeius retains enough sense of honor and his duty as a host to protect his guests and warn Menas against such action. Although he acts offended at the suggestion, Pompeius laments that Menas did not act on his own instinct without seeking permission. In an aside, Menas muses that he shall soon have to part company with Pompeius, whose useless ethics of honor forbids him to follow a course of action certain to lead to immense power.
By the time Pompeius rejoins the Triumvirs, Lepidus is very drunk. At Antony's request, the weak man is carried off to bed. Enobarbus, in a manner that has by now become typical of him, jestingly remarks that the servant who is carrying off Lepidus must be a very strong fellow since he bears the weight of "the third part of the world." Menas cynically wishes that the whole world were as drunk as the third part, for then the world would go "on wheels."
Pompeius tells Antony that "this is not an Alexandrine feast," referring to the lavish evenings hosted by Cleopatra in Egypt. Antony, however, answers that it is moving in that direction and encourages the prim Caesar to enjoy himself, to "be a child o' the time." In typical fashion, Caesar replies that he would rather control time rather than be governed by it; however, he agrees to have one more goblet of wine.
Enobarbus encourages everyone to participate in an Egyptian Bacchanalian dance, which adds a spirit of liveliness with its wild and merry music. Caesar declares that they are all on the verge of getting drunk, including himself. He excuses himself, breaking up the party. As Pompeius bids Antony good night, he mentions that Antony now possesses the house in Rome that once belonged to his father, Pompey the Great. He adds, however, that since they are now on friendly terms, it does not matter.
The central purpose of this scene is to provide a contrast between the diverse characters of Antony, Caesar, Lepidus, and Pompeius. Each man reacts differently to the drinking and feasting aboard the ship of Pompeius, who serves as a gallant host. When Menas suggests that he murder all the Triumvirs, who are half-drunk, so that Pompeius can become the most powerful man in Rome, Pompeius will not hear of it, even though he thinks it is a wonderful suggestion. He has enough honor and propriety in himself that he cannot allow his guests to be harmed aboard his ship. Later in the play, it will be revealed that Pompeius' code of honor does not benefit him. He loses his future to the corruption of Menas, who deserts him, and to the unscrupulousness of Caesar, who violates the treaty he entered into.
Once again in this scene, Lepidus is portrayed as a weak character. During the early feasting, he enjoys trying to keep peace between the leaders. He soon, however, becomes inebriated and has to be carried off to bed. The scene also clarifies why Caesar is the mightiest of the Triumvirs although Antony possesses greater military skill and expertise. Caesar is always able to stay balanced and remain calm and unruffled, even in adverse situations. He alone keeps his head during the drinking bout. Antony, who always finds pleasure in feasting and merriment, tries to get Caesar to loosen up and enjoy himself. Fearing that he will become inebriated, Caesar agrees to one more goblet of wine and then excuses himself to go to bed.
As usual, Shakespeare allows his minor characters to shed information on the major characters. Menas hints, in an aside, that he will soon desert Pompeius, and Enobarbus humorously comments on the weight of Lepidus as the leader of a third of the world.