The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Act II, Scene v

Enter Cleopatra, Charmian, Iras, and Alexas.

Again, color, light, and laughter suddenly illumine the world, as Cleopatra and her train burst in. Stagings have sometimes eliminated the brief 2.4 to sharpen the contrast between the sober vision of colorless Octavia meekly going off with her brother, and the entrance of the Queen of Egypt in a splash of light. An attendant’s rhythmical fan has reminded us that we are in warm Egypt—and of Enobarbus’s wondrous description of Cleopatra in 2.2. (Although we have not seen Cleopatra since 1.5, Shakespeare has taken pains to keep her vividly in our minds—as well as Anthony’s!) This has been a throne scene: Cleopatra has retreated to the throne in her dreadful moments.

I think Shakespeare inserted the episode in 2.4 about the three men going to war not only to restart his linear mode, but also, in his juggling with time, to fit a pause, however brief, between Anthony’s marriage to Octavia and the news of it reaching Cleopatra.

She and her girls come laughing in, as if this is an annex to their last scene, 1.5: except that Cleopatra will sound a softer note of wistfulness behind her enjoyment of the moment. She will sound so many notes in this scene— sport, delight, love, nostalgia, generosity, hope, fear, pain, jealousy, fury, conciliation, terror, despair. Through it all, she remains a Queen. Shakespeare intends her voice and manner will continue to woo audiences: she whom everything becomes, to chide, to laugh, to weep. Never the harridan, never querulous or petulant, never anger without the subtext of anguish. It is Cleopatra’s most spectacular scene: but beset with dangers for the actress, as we will see.

All seems so Egyptian-happy in the first beat. In the modern dress Berliner, a game of badminton began to be played on stage. At Stratford, a game of ball. Egyptian play! Shakespeare did want his audience to enjoy being there. The scene must be shadowed, though, by what it knows Cleopatra must learn— contra-lit by Anthony’s vision of an eventual return to her.

Cleopatra’s mind, again, is far away, and seeks distraction. She has been seen as languid: more likely, as in 1.5, her restlessness for the sight, sound, and arms of Anthony energizes the moment:

-181-

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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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