The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Act III, Scene iv

Enter Anthony and Octavia.

Once more, the contextual mode: the character stresses build, to a painful conclusion, riding the to-and-back rhythm.

Once more, too, the scene begins with an interrupted conversation. Octavia has been trying to appease Anthony, and she has only intensified his feeling. He comes in hurt, angry, determined. There is a hint of his intent to return to Egypt; mainly he wants to make Octavia understand the wrongs done him by Caesar. What guides us here is the response Shakespeare intended.

First, he is preserving Anthony’s divided, sympathetic identity. So when Anthony complains about Caesar, he is not blaming Octavia. He feels wronged, threatened. Octavia has some sense of Anthony’s injuries; a loving Roman woman, caught between two Romans, she hopes he will not stomach—resent— Caesar’s insults.

(At this point, Shakespeare counted on most of his audience not knowing how he is covering up the full story of the many years that passed since 3.3, to concentrate on his own Anthony-Cleopatra story. I will not tell the full story here, because it would discolor Shakespeare’s dramatic purpose; and I hope any reader who knows it will forget it for now. Shakespeare’s only reference to a specific event in that lost period is, again, when Eros remembers how Anthony fought against the Parthians; though we will learn that Anthony has been with Cleopatra, while busy conquering Eastern kingdoms, and that Caesar has been busy in the West.)

Anthony’s first speech is a series of mounting exclamations that confirms our sense of how much Shakespeare’s great Romans were jealous of their reputations:

Nay! Nay! Octavia! Not only that!
That were excusable, that and thousands more
Of semblable import! but he hath waged
New wars ’gainst Pompey! Made his will, and read it,
To public ear! spoke scantly of me,
When perforce he could not
But pay me terms of honour! cold and sickly

-246-

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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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