The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra

By Marvin Rosenberg; Mary Rosenberg | Go to book overview

Act IV, Scene vii

Alarum, Drums and Trumpets. Enter Agrippa.

Agrippa [To his men]: Retire! We have engaged ourselves too far!

He lets something of his feeling for his leader—and his leader’s military intelligence—show:

Caesar himself has work! and our oppression
Exceeds what we expected!

The logistics of the battle suggest that we saw Caesar and his men in the previous scene at stage right (not the audience right), ready to fight. In a great sound of war, the Romans advanced warily across the stage. We have been led to anticipate their easy victory. Surprise! They are in retreat! They have been met offstage and thrown back by Anthony’s men, who had exited (4.5) stage left. The Romans are now in full retreat, the soldier’s pole, with their banner, fallen as they run.

Anthony’s battle has been called, from North’s Plutarch translation, only a “skirmish”: but Plutarch’s text indicated it was more than that:

Antonius made a sally upon [Caesar], and fought very valiantly, so that he drave
Caesar’s horsemen back, fighting with his men even into their camp.

Shakespeare stipulates here none of the hand-to-hand struggling of Henry V, for instance. As with Actium, the fighting presumably goes on offstage, to the sounds of “drums and trumpets” and the “alarum” activating the Roman retreat. Directors, possibly even in the playwright’s own time, have enlivened the scene with the noise of battle, the clash of metal, shifting lights, smoke, the waving of swords, violent physical interaction. Gouts of blood were seen thrown against the back of Brook’s transparent backdrops. Soldiers’ uniforms show tatters; soldiers are hurt, bleeding, need support to move off. But such realism must indeed look real; anything less, or “symbolic” pantomime, has called attention to effort, rather than provided the integrated effect of dramatic art. And any “battle” should not interrupt the flow of the play, of Shakespeare’s concentration on the characters.

-341-

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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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