Act V

Scene 1

Caesar is presented with the sword of Antony, to prove he has died. Caesar maintains his cold and proper exterior by praising his former glory: he is free to do so now he is no longer threatened by it. He acknowledges their differences: "We could not stall together in the whole world" yet takes his posthumous panegyric too far by calling Antony "my brother... my mate in empire, / Friend and companion in the front of war,/ The arm of mine own body". His speech is cut off by an Egyptian, whom he bids tell Cleopatra that "we purpose her no shame.". This does appear to be true since he repeats this sentiment alone with his fellow Romans after the Egyptian has departed, but Cleopatra, as becomes evident in the next scene, cannot trust him to treat her well. Caesar's closing lines, about his written records of the events, show that he is keen to give posterity a favorable picture of himself.

Scene 2

Proculeius gives Cleopatra greetings from Caesar, yet she does not trust him, since she is paranoid that Caesar will abuse her and treat her like "a beggar", later saying she would prefer death to such embarrassment:

"I will not wait pinioned at your master's court ...
Shall they hoist me up
And show me to the shouting varletry of censuring Rome?"

Dolabella enters, but Cleopatra is in a reverie about the greatness of her departed Antony: "His face was as the heavens... ". She collects herself, and asks Dolabella if Caesar plans to mistreat her or give her dignity. Dolabella says in one simple line that he is sure Caesar will lead her through the streets in shame as a prisoner. To a cynical eye, it seems that it is this, more than the death of Antony, which makes Cleopatra resolve to commit suicide. They exchange superficial pleasantries, and Caesar departs with a show of friendship. But as soon as he leaves the stage, Cleopatra tells her attendants that he is sweet talking her so she will not kill herself, with the aim of making a mockery of her in Rome: "He words me, girls, he words me... ".

Cleopatra and her maids prepare for death: Cleopatra dresses in her crown and "best attires... To meet Mark Antony". Then follows an incongruous exchange with a "Clown" who is allowed to Cleopatra's apartments because the Romans think he sells figs, when in fact he is bringing her deadly asps so she may die. He speaks in bawdy puns "I wish you all the joy of the worm" which have a tragic-comic effect when viewed in the context of the gravity of the scene, and are important in that they prevent the end of the play being imbalanced and too great a tribute to Cleopatra. The colloquial prose interlude also serves to offset the beautiful lines of poetry such as "I have immortal longings in me". Iras dies from the aspic, and Cleopatra, with Antony's name on her lips, also dies. Charmian straightens her queen's crown, and follows suit. The Romans arrive to find a scene of serene and majestic death. Caesar proposes a funeral of "great solemnity".

  By PanEris using Melati.

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