Act IIScene 1
Pompey and his two pirate friends discuss their chances against the triumvirate. Pompey describes the three rulers:
"... Mark Antony
The speech is useful in that it sums up the three and shows how dysfunctional they are in sharing command - Antony is hinted to be warlike only in bed, Caesar's unpopularity and inhumanity is shown, and all relations with Lepidus are insincere. Pompey hopes that the popular and admired Antony will remain bound up in Cleopatra's sensuous charms, that "sleep and feeding may prorogue his honour". ('prorogue' = delay). Varrius enters, ironically interrupting him, to report Antony's departure from Egypt, and Pompey can only hope that his threat will "cement their divisions".
Antony arrives in Rome, and meets his co-emperors. Although all begins civilly enough, Caesar reproaches Antony for being absent, and for the attacks Fulvia and Lucius (Antony's brother) made on him, and for not answering his missives... Antony answers the accusations calmly, explaining that he could not respond to the messengers because he was hungover - "Three kings I had newly feasted, and did want/ Of what I was i'th'morning". Caesar grows more heated, saying Antony denied him the arms he had promised to aid him with; Antony again blames the luxury of Egypt. All the while, Lepidus is keen to pacify the two, saying "Soft, Caesar!" when he attacks Antony. A scheme is proposed by Agrippa to hold the triumvirs "in perpetual amity": Antony is to marry Caesar's beloved sister Octavia. Antony appears to have forgotten Cleopatra in this scene, or, more likely, he has cultivated a disdain of her for diplomatic reasons, and he agrees to the marriage with a show of enthusiasm. The emperors exit, leaving Enobarbus discussing his debauched time in Egypt with Romans Maecenus and Agrippa. These two have heard gossip about Cleopatra and her lifestyle, and Enobarbus outdoes all the hearsay with his own description, which transforms her into a magical being. [See 'Imagery' for discussion of his famous speech "The barge she sat in... "]
Antony tactfully bids farewell to his new wife Octavia, preparing her for the sham marriage they will have with "The world and my great office will sometimes/ Divide me from your bosom." Octavia and Caesar leave Antony alone with a soothsayer who warns him that he should not remain close to Caesar, who is a threat to him. He predicts that Caesar's fortunes will rise higher than Antony's.
A very short scene which shows Lepidus and Maecenus parting as a prelude to the sea battle with Pompey.
Cleopatra is amusing herself, musing on what games to play: billiards and fishing are considered until she breaks off into recounting the sport she had when she would wear Antony's sword. A messenger arrives, and Cleopatra will not let him speak, she is so busy pre-empting his news, and promising him gold if it is good. The unfortunate messenger has to recount that Antony is married: Cleopatra's response - "The most infectious pestilence upon thee!" - and her physical assault "she hales him up and down" terrify the messenger, who runs off stage. Cleopatra recalls her nobility and regains her temper, asking him to be brought back into her presence so she may check the facts. She displays anxiety that her alliance with Antony means she cannot be friends with Caesar; and then sends a dispatch to enquire into how attractive Antony's new wife is.
A meeting between the triumvirate and Pompey; which will hopefully preclude battle - "Most meet / That first we come to words" (Caesar). Pompey claims he is avenging the wrongs done to his father under Julius Caesar; Antony agrees that they fight him at sea, where the triumvirs are at a disadvantage. Pompey invites them aboard his galley, and the mood changes from one of negotiation to a more social occasion; Menas and Enobarbus, though followers of Pompey and Antony respectively, overlook their differences and exchange pleasantries.
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