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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 1
This scene focuses on the successful expedition of Ventidius against the Parthians. The army of Marcus Crassus had been decimated, and he had been killed in a battle that he lost against the Parthians in 53 B.C. At the time of the play, no Roman had been able to defeat the Parthians for fifteen years. As a result, Ventidius' achievement is very significant.
In this scene, Ventidius triumphantly bears the body of Pacorus, the son of the Parthian king, in exultation of his victory. Silius, a fellow officer, suggests that Ventidius should seize the opportunity of his victory and also conquer Media and Messopotamia, victories that would greatly please his captain, Antony. Ventidius says that he dare not, for the sake of his own safety outdo the deeds of his own master. He tells Silius that he must not "acquire too high a fame when him we serve's away." Silius approvingly remarks that Ventidius possesses a remarkable degree of tact that enables him to handle men and situations admirably.
The main purpose of this scene, which is really dispensable to the development of plot, is to provide a satiric contrast to the closing scene of the previous act. As the three masters of the world go on a drinking spree on board Pompeius' ship, their soldiers are hard at work, winning battles.
It is significant to note that Ventidius' victory is a significant one for him and Antony because the Parthians have been undefeatable for fifteen years. It is also important to note that Ventidius is aware of Antony's ego and jealous nature. He does not want to score too many victories for fear that Antony will become jealous of him. He tells Silius, "I could do more to do Antonius good, / But would offend him; and in his offence / Should my performance perish." Ventidius' prediction about Antony's reaction later materializes, and he is dismissed from his position.
ACT III, SCENE 2
This scene opens with Agrippa and Enobarbus' satiric account of Lepidus' behavior. They discuss how the weak Triumvir always tries to keep peace between Caesar and Antony, the two masters of the world. They also mock his sense of worship of the two Triumvirs. When Enobarbus says that Lepidus acts as if Caesar were the "Jupiter of men," Agrippa asks about Antony's role. Enobarbus sarcastically responds that he is "the god of Jupiter."
In the second part of the scene the Triumvirs enter. Antony and Octavia soon take their leave of Caesar. Before the newlyweds depart, Caesar displays much affection and grief at parting from his sister. He remarks to Antony, "You take from me a greater part of myself; / Use me well in it." Caesar also seems aware of the fact that the marriage of Octavia and Caesar may not be a perfect one and may cause a future discord. This is evident in his plea to Antony: "Let not the place of virtue, which is set / Betwixt us as the cement of our love / To keep it builded, be the ram to batter / The fortress of it."
Although this scene does not further the dramatic action or develop the plot, the satiric discussion of Enobarbus and Agrippa serves to highlight the fact that the behavior of the Triumvirs is vacuous and excessive. It also serves to underscore the weakness of Lepidus, especially in contrast to the power of Caesar and Antony
The scene also marks Octavia's first significant entry in the play, and more information about her is presented. Antony is deeply moved by her loveliness and emotions, as evidenced by his remark, "The April's in her eyes; it is love's spring." Caesar also reveals his deep fondness for his sister and his fear that her marriage to Antony may cause future discord. As Enobarbus and Agrippa watch the parting scene between the three, they comment that Caesar is too afraid to cry, while Antony cries easily, as evidenced by his tears over the murder of Julius Caesar.
It is significant to note the implied comparison between Octavia and Lepidus. Both of them are caught in the middle between Caesar and Antony, and both are helpless against both of these mighty Triumvirs.