Antony And Cleopatra — Acts IV, V, and Reveal
Act IV - First Read
As long as most of Act III’s scenes may have been, the first two of Act IV are just as short.
Um, I’m not sure that observation is a) worded well, b) accurate, or c ) at all interesting to the story.
Give me a break, will ya? Shakespeare ain’t easy.
Scene one, Two, three
Scene i exists to tell us that Octavius is more flabbergasted than pissed when he learns Antony considers him an unworthy opponent. In just a few, quick lines, he is quite shocked that Antony would even consider fighting him. Yet he gives him no respect for his courage to do so.
In Scene ii, Antony works up his men with a decent speech, the night before his proposed battle with Octavius. Is it meant to be one-on-one fisticuffs? I believe that’s what Antony has intended. If so, or if no, his men will back him.
Scene iii is crazy, yo! There’s a couple soldiers or three who hear an unfamiliar noise, so they ask a couple other soldiers if they too heard the same noise and those soldiers are all like, “Shah! Sure as peach pie on Christmas!”
No, but seriously, they are concerned about the battle that will occur in the morning. It’s actually refreshing to get this new perspective from the common man, defenders of their post.
Scene four, five, six
Not much happens in Scene iv. Cleopatra dresses Antony for battle and we find out that yes, he does intend to fight Octavius, man to man. This is rad. The scene flies by as every other so far in Act IV. But here, Cleopatra’s spirit is all but removed from it. She seems to have lost her voice and strength in front of Antony. I have a hunch she’s biding her time and playing the mouse. At one point, Antony kisses her. It’s a quick stage direction that is given no attention. Even in the reading you can feel Cleopatra’s unwillingness to love. No more.
Scene v — A soldier meets Mark Antony on the field to deliver the news that Octavius has gone away. There will be no fight between the men today. Enobarbus too has left with Octavius and this displeases Antony more. I guess he thought Enobarbus was his own man through and through? Welp, not anymore, chump.
Alrighty roo, here in scene vi, Enobarbus is feeling pretty crappy about his betrayal to Antony. So I guess that was a big deal after all. Enobarbus is so distraught in fact, that he says he’s going to go seek out a ditch to die in. Easy tiger. Antony’s not all that.
Next, we are treated to battle scenes that do little to spark the imagination on the page. Though I’m sure it would be swell to watch on stage. Leading up to the battle, I thought Antony to be kind of a blowhard with nothing much to back up his fightin’ words. Yet here, he wins the battle and returns to Cleopatra victorious. Will she care? Let’s find out.
Scene nine +
Scene ix has Antony parading around Alexandria, declaring his victory. When he sees Cleopatra, he declares once more his love for her. He says that her love is the only wound he can suffer in his heart. Foreshadowing much? I’m guessing. But I’m probably right.
The next two or three scenes bounce back and forth from Antony to Octavius. The only thing going on here is that each commander is looking out at the coming battle at sea. And then, Antony runs from it. He says he is betrayed.
Next, Cleopatra is afraid for her life. For some reason she thinks Antony is mad, dangerous to no end, will kill her if he finds her. Crap. What did I miss? Well, Charmian suggests that the queen go hide in a monument and to send word to Antony that she’s dead. That oughtta stop him.
I like this plan. This plan has winner winner rattlesnake dinner written all over it.
Ohhh right. Duh. I forgot that Cleopatra betrayed Antony by making some pact with Octavius. No doubt Antony found out somehow and his heart is broken. Poor guy. I mean it this time. Even if he is a dumbbell, in his own way, he did love his queen. Now he’s heartbroken and wallowing in betrayal. He says himself that the joke’s on her though, because he still has the wherewithal to kill himself. And ain’t nobody gonna take that away from him.
O Antony. Get thee to a suicide help center.
Mardian comes in and tells Antony that Cleopatra has died. Lies!
“Dead then?” Antony asks plainly, in deadpan callback to news of Fulvia’s demise. Classic.
But he does mourn Cleopatra and is instantly ashamed at his souring thoughts concerning her.
Enter Eros. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this guy before but I gather he used to be a slave and Antony freed him. Now he works for Antony. Ok? Background check out?
Antony begs Eros to kill him with his sword. This scene goes on a little too long and it comes across as comedic during certain beats. It’s the anticipation of a thing you know can’t come to pass because it’s only still Act IV and that would be no satisfying way for Antony to go out.
But in the end, Eros agrees to kill Antony. He draws his sword and… kills himself. Way to go, knucklehead. Antony, observing dead Eros, just kind of shrugs his shoulders. And moves on to the guards who enter next.
“Won’t anyone who loves me finish the job?” he begs of them. They all say, in essence, “Not I,” and we are led to believe that no one loves Antony enough to kill him. Ouch. Tough nuts, boyo.
But then Antony learns Cleopatra is actually still alive and she had sent word to trick him. Clever girl. He now has something to live for once again.
scene fifteen: Really? Yup
Antony comes stumbling into the monument to find his lying love. Lying in the sense that she’s a liar because she lied about being dead. Not that she was lying dead on the ground. Because she wasn’t. The latter, I mean. She breathes. And she lies. Cool cool?
Cleo screams for help but Anton tells her it’s useless. And he’s dying. Did Eros swing his sword at him and deliver a blow that didn’t kill him immediately but may in the near future? Did I miss that? Or is this a battle wound? Anyway, he’s not well off,
And what the what?? Antony says some nice words to Cleopatra and then he dies in her arms! I honestly did not see this coming here at the end of Act IV. What the heck do we have left for a denouement?
After Antony dies, Cleopatra speaks and then faints. Her maids think her dead too but no. She pops up and says there should be brief resolution. So here it comes, I guess.
Act V: First Read
One of Antony’s servants is before Octavius, delivering the news of Antony’s death by his own hand. Great so I missed that. It was probably only the biggest development in the whole play. Way to go, Bry.
Octavius Caeser (in case you forgot his last name — I still have yet to Google if he is Julius’ cousin or what?) is devastated by the news. He respected Antony as a great warrior, the likes of which the world had never seen. Okey dokey. If you say so, boss. Actually, I do remember other people discussing Antony’s legendary war skills. So let’s let him have this one.
Octavius asks to see Cleopatra and the messengers go off to fetch her.
When they reach Cleopatra, the messengers tell her Octavius will be gentle with her. She agrees to come with them but then becomes stoic and rigid. When they sneak up behind her (by climbing some ladder), Cleopatra brandishes a knife. She is easily disarmed and virtually taken into custody.
It is my understanding that Cleopatra is grieving and making moves here that everyone is willing to forgive. They see she wasn’t really going to hurt anyone with her knife so they just sort of hold her until Octavius can arrive and deal with her. As they wait, she delivers lovely dialogue about what Antony meant to the world. I think she was the only one who ever saw him this way,
Before Octavius, Cleopatra is resolute in remaining strong. He gives her every opportunity to fall into line and eventually she does. She agrees to be subservient to Caesar, and she claims that of all the riches in Egypt, she has claimed none for her own. She asks her treasurer (?) to back her claim and he does. Then, for some reason I don’t get, she calls the guy a work, basically. She lays into him pretty hard and I’m sure I misread something here. But Octavius doesn’t seem to care much about anything at all. He’s playing it cool. He leaves and Cleopatra is there with her servants and I still can’t peg her or what she intends to do about Octavius, if anything.
The queen goes on to tell her servants that nothing really matters and that someday, plays will be written and performed about her. She will be portrayed, by some boy, as a common whore.
”Oh good grief,” exclaims her servant, Charmian Brown. Actually, Charmian comes in after this but but I couldn’t resist the silly reference. One of her servants actually does harrumph in a Charlie Brown manner at Cleopatra’s dismal prediction,
A guard enters and she tells him she has no woman left in her.
A clown enters. I spoke of a worm somewhere before. Maybe it was in the previous bloggy, I’ll have to check. But wherever it was, that reference to a worm was metaphorical. Here, the clown delivers a worm in a basket at Cleopatra’s feet for some reason. He goes on and on and on some more about how to feed the worm and not be afraid of the worm and hey, check out this cool worm. And dude, I just don’t know. I’m sure the clown’s worm is rampant with symbolism. Is Shakespeare saying that Cleopatra is a worm? Probably, though I don’t really get why. If anyone is the worm in this play, it be Antony. But we shan’t speak I’ll of the dead.
Still chopping up scene two here, folks!
So Cleopatra stands up and walks around and claims she sees Antony. Is she delusional or just being hyperbolic? I’m not sure. But she approaches and kisses her servant Iras on the lips. And Iras falls and dies. WTF? Cleo questions her own lips as being adorned with poisonous aspic, but then goes about her business.
And what weird business it is.
Are you sitting down?
Cleopatra garbs an asp and applies it to her breast. The asp’s fangs dig in. Charmian exclaims “Oh my!” or some such Shakespeare-speak, but it moves Cleo not. The queen grabs hold a second asp and applies it’s fangs to her arm. So there she is, wobbly on her feet as the poison begins to take effect but still, she carries on.
Her final words and thoughts are of Antony. He was “As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle, — O Antony! Nay, I will take thee too. What should I stay—“
Messengers come in because I guess they heard all the dying. Charmian tells them not to wake her queen. And what does she do next? Why she applies an app to her own body, of course. And then Charmian goes to meet her queen in death.
Octavius enters and sees all the bodies. He’s like, “Well, we probably should have seen this coming. Let’s bury her with Antony. It will be a great ceremony. For never were there two more cuckoo lovebirds in this world than Anton and Cleo.”
I guess it’s safe to say that at this point in time, R&J are but blips in the cosmos, waiting to be born to seek out their own kooky dooks fatal attraction. But sure ok, let’s give it up, for now, for Antony and Cleopatra! R.I.P.
Well this was fun! I enjoyed reading most of this play, and I understood quite more than I thought I did while I was reading it! Does that make sense?
The biggest thing I missed was that Antony was actually one third of a Triumvirate that ruled the Roman Empire. The other two rulers were Octavius Caesar and Lepidus, the latter of whom I barely mention in either of this two-part bloggy. Most of the tension then comes from Antony screwing off to Egypt left and right to be with Cleopatra. I got that part. But what I missed was that every time he returned to Rome, Octavius Caesar would become more and more disenchanted with Antony, finding him less of a threatening presence to their enemies and more of a liability to the stability of their empire.
If I had know of their Triumvirate (or even known what a Triumvirate was), I suppose I would have appreciated some of the intricacies of the play even more. In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense and was probably obvious in the context. But you know what? Shakespeare is hard, yo!
Next Month On Shakespeare Reads:
As You Like It
Find out July 29th and 31st.