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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT IV, SCENE 1
This short scene takes place in Caesar's camp. Caesar mockingly laughs at Antony's challenge to a personal combat. He says with contempt, "Let the old ruffian know I have many other ways to die" than by his hand. He resolves to wage a final battle the next day, certain of emerging victorious, especially since many of Antony's men have deserted him and joined Caesar. In spite of his contempt and sneering attitude, Caesar does feel a touch of pity for Antony as is evident in his sigh, "Poor Antony!"
Caesar remains unchanged in this brief scene. He is the same confident and calculating politician that has been presented since the opening scenes of the play. He has just read Antony's letter, which calls him "boy" and challenges him to a personal combat. Caesar laughs at Antony's suggestion. He is unwilling to risk his future by single handedly fighting his enemy. He knows that his troops can easily defeat the dwindling and despairing forces headed by Antony. Caesar's reaction bears out the truth of Enobarbus' prediction.
The proud, young Triumvir, feeling certain of victory, decides to fight the final battle against Antony the next day. The brevity of the scene and the alacrity of Caesar's decision indicate that Antony is quickly moving towards total disaster and preparing Caesar to achieve his ambition to become the sole and powerful leader of the Roman world.
ACT IV, SCENE 2
This scene returns to Cleopatra's palace, where Antony has just read Caesar's reply. He learns that Caesar will not engage in personal combat with him, for Caesar believes that he is personally worth twenty men by virtue of his fortune. Angry over the response, Antony vows that he will fight Caesar on the next day.
Antony calls for the household servants. He shakes their hands and thanks them for having served him so loyally and diligently. He asks them to serve him for one more night and suggests that they may have a new master by tomorrow. Cleopatra is upset by Antony's unconventional behavior and wonders what it means. Enobarbus says that it is "one of those odd tricks which sorrow shoots / Out of the mind." He then criticizes Antony for his unmanly display of emotion, which has every one weeping.
Before the scene closes, Antony changes his mood completely. He puts on a brave show of enforced geniality and proclaims that he hopes things will go well in battle on the next day. If he is victorious, he promises them that he will allow them to lead a victorious life.
This scene reveals a sentimental Antony as he thanks the servants and asks them to stay with him one more night. Enobarbus is quick to criticize his unmanly display of emotion, and Cleopatra cannot understand it. When he sees the others weeping, Antony switches from his sentimentality and encourages the men "to burn this night with torches" and to "drown consideration in a communal feast." He also tries to convince them that things will go well the next day in battle. His words ring hollow, and the entire mood of the scene foreshadows the disaster that is about to ensue.
Some critics have interpreted this scene allegorically, suggesting Antony as a Christ figure. As he shares a meal with his servants, it becomes his last supper before he is sacrificed. He speaks of bathing "my dying honor in blood." He also speaks of the master and the servants changing places: "I wish I could be made so many men, / And all of you clapp'd up together in / An Antony, that I might do you service." There is even a hint that someone may betray Antony, for he says that they may have to serve another master tomorrow. Since Enobarbus has already disclosed that he will seek some way to leave Antony, he becomes the likely Judas.