The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Act III, Scene iii

Enter Cleopatra, Charmian, Iras, and Alexas.

It has been said that all Shakespeare gives Cleopatra to do in 3.3, as in 2.5, is to wait for Anthony. We saw rather that in 2.5, as the scene went on, she was made to undergo pain and suffering; 3.3 is not easier for her.

True, the scene can be (I’ve seen several such) played for comedy, as if a Nay Cleopatra has not a care in the world; as if Shakespeare did not want us to feel for—and with—this forsaken Queen/woman. But Shakespeare is crunching time again: the scene opens exactly where 2.5 ended, when Cleopatra could hardly speak for her misery at the news of Anthony’s marriage. It is as if the intervening Roman scenes had passed in the flash of Cleopatra exiting and reentering. Except that the audience knows what tensions have been developing in Rome, and Cleopatra does not.

Now, still heartsore, Cleopatra will try to extract any hope she can from the Messenger who bore the bad news. Humor there is in the scene; but it develops around a lovely, distraught woman trying, in the only way she knows, to ease her loneliness and rejection. She has been in tears, or suppressing them.

We are instantly out of cool Rome into Egypt again: light, colorful, warm— Cleopatra is again being softly fanned. She has moved to sit on her regal chair, for support in the trial to come. She is fully a Queen, but restless, restless. Her alarmed court knows it, and treads softly, aware of how violent she can be. (Will there be any touches of Elizabeth I in this portrait?)

Through the scene Cleopatra has sometimes consulted a hand mirror. She is impatient:

Cleopatra: Where is the fellow!?
Alexas:                          Half afeard to come.
Cleopatra: Go to! go to!

Enter the Messenger as before.

Alexas, or Charmian, or Iras, or all three, now supremely sensitive to their mistress’ stress, hurry to coax or drag in the terrified Messenger, who cannot forget he was before beaten and threatened with a knife. He will, trembling,

-239-

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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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