The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Act II, Scene i

Enter Pompey, Menecrates, and Menas,
in warlike manner.

We are instantly back at war, but in an unfamiliar place. We are at (or near) the sea, another dimension in Shakespeare’s worldwide. Three men enter, Romans, but, if true to Shakespeare, not wearing the usual Roman garb; rather the rugged trousers and shirts sailors must wear. For headwear the two pirates may have on their heads black sailor-type kerchiefs, or black headbands. The scene parallels the last Roman one, a leader entering in argument with subordinate(s), a messenger to come.

The men have stood on—or what seem to be—rocking planks. A few ropes and a sail dropped from above, and we are on a galley—the same one as in 2.7? The men have also been seen in a rowboat; in one staging Pompey was casually fishing—surely wrong to defuse the sense of the urgency Shakespeare intended. The sea has been suggested by shifting reflected lights, as of restless water. Sounds of the sea, even of storm, may charge the air—but not too much, for the words must be heard.

If the scene is included. Too often, it is deleted. A critic has suggested that Pompey is superfluous, the scene is not necessary to the plot. But without it as preparation, Pompey’s crucial moral choice when he has the whole world in his grasp (in 2.7) loses the important human depth the playwright is crafting. This scene is necessary to Shakespeare’s wide world picture: it keeps alive his images of Anthony and Cleopatra, it intensifies the imminent conflagration of war—sparked and already heating up in act I, scenes 2, 3 and 4—and it adds an important dimension to the Roman arena and culture.

For the first time in this play a Roman leader speaks without disdain of his people and their hopes. You could almost convict Shakespeare of dreaming of democracy! In Pompey, the playwright seems to be building, in contrast to the more sophisticated major personae, the only politically idealistic man. Pompey alone is concerned with what is just—he is in fact the only one in the play who uses the word.

We have learned how Pompey’s power has grown—we saw it draw Anthony from Egypt—because many of the Roman people want him, love him. We get incidental notes of his good nature: he was hospitable to Anthony’s fugitive

-145-

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The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgments 17
  • Introduction 21
  • Act One 39
  • Act I, Scene I 41
  • Anthony 70
  • Cleopatra 80
  • Act I, Scene II 86
  • Act I, Scene III 104
  • Octavius 118
  • Act I, Scene IV 123
  • Act I, Scene V 133
  • Act Two 143
  • Act II, Scene I 145
  • Act II, Scene II 151
  • Act 2, Scene III 174
  • Act II, Scene IV 180
  • Act II, Scene V 181
  • Act 2, Scene VI 197
  • Act II, Scene VII 207
  • Act Three 225
  • Act III, Scene I 227
  • Act III, Scene II 231
  • Act III, Scene III 239
  • Act III, Scene IV 246
  • Act III, Scene V 251
  • Act III, Scene VI 254
  • Act III, Scene VII 262
  • Act III, Scenes VIII, IX, and X 272
  • Act III, Scene XI 278
  • Act III, Scene XII 288
  • Act III, Scene XIII 293
  • Act Four 315
  • Act IV, Scene I 317
  • Act IV, Scene II 320
  • Act IV, Scene III 326
  • Act IV, Scene IV 329
  • Act IV, Scene V 335
  • Act IV, Scene VI 337
  • Act IV, Scene VII 341
  • Act IV, Scene VIII 344
  • Act IV, Scene IX 349
  • Act IV, Scenes X, XI, XII, and XIII 352
  • Act IV, Scene XIV 362
  • Act IV, Scene XV 379
  • Act Five 393
  • Act V, Scene I 395
  • Act V, Scene II 403
  • Is Anthony and Cleopatra a Tragedy? 473
  • Epilogue 480
  • A Note on the Historical Cleopatra 69 Bc–30 BC 482
  • Critical and Theatrical Bibliographies 489
  • Critical Bibliography 491
  • Theatrical Bibliography 532
  • Index 597
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