The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Act III, Scene xiii

Enter Cleopatra, Enobarbus, Charmian, and Iras.

Shakespeare now will test fiercely Anthony, Cleopatra, and Enobarbus, as he tests Othello, the Macbeths, and Lear.

We are back in a warm Egyptian world, a fan or fans again cooling the air. But the mood is solemn; Actium hangs heavily over all. The four entering are not now in the familiar Alexandria setting; in Shakespeare’s collapsed time, Caesar has taken the city.

Once more Cleopatra enters with Enobarbus with whom, by now, Shakespeare has established for her (and the audience) a funded relationship. She moves often to her “throne” chair, backed by a silent Charmian and Iras. Her first question reveals the desperation of the situation:

What shall we do, Enobarbus?

And he, ironically, describes more his own doom than that of Anthony and Cleopatra:

Think, and die.

(Might there be a bitter, sexual undertone here? We have “kissed away / Kingdoms,” Scarus has told Enobarbus in 3.10. Does Enobarbus complete the thought with the suggestion that now all that is left to do is go to bed and make love: all for love and the world well lost?)

Cleopatra quickly dispels a Nay view that she never looks back, never concerns herself with her past errors. Thus: “It is impossible to recall in her any agonized or even disturbed sense of her own part in events”; “Cleopatra’s whole character is the triumph of the voluptuous, of the love of pleasure and the power of giving it, over every other consideration.” Be Cleopatra now. As in your worry about how you treated the Messenger in 2.5, now ultimately serious, you care about a crucial misconduct that could lose you Egypt, Anthony, and with him the whole East (in what order?). You have evidently brooded over this important second question:

Is Anthony or we in fault in this?

-293-

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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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