Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra Summary and Analysis of Act Four, Scenes 1-11


Scene One. Before Alexandria. Caesar's camp. Caesar chats with Maecenas and Agrippa, with the army in tow. Caesar scoffs at Antony's offer of a duel. He tells his men that tomorrow should be the last battle. So many have defected from Antony's side that the defectors alone would make sufficient force for Caesar.

Scene Two. Alexandria. Cleopatra's palace. Antony has heard Caesar's refusal. He has Enobarbus call in various Servitors, and makes a speech, bidding them make merry, and thanking them for their years of service. Cleopatra asks Enobarbus what Antony intends. All are moved to tears, and even Enobarbus has to beg Antony to stop: "What mean you, sir, / To give them this discomfort? Look, they weep, / And I, an ass, am onion-eyed; for shame, / Transform us not to women" (4.1.33-6).

Scene Three. Alexandria. Before Cleopatra's palace. Soldiers talk as they stand on watch. They hear strange music moving away. Some think the music signifies Hercules, one of Antony's patron gods, deserting him.

Scene Four. Alexandria. Cleopatra's palace. Antony, Cleopatra, Charmian, Eros, and others. Antony is putting on his armor, with Eros' help. Cleopatra insists on helping. At first she can't get it right, but eventually she helps him put the pieces on correctly. He says brave words and kisses her goodbye. Cleopatra, with Charmian, laments that Caesar did not accept Antony's challenge to single combat. But nothing can be done.

Scene Five. Alexandria. Antony's camp. Antony and Eros meet with a Soldier. The Soldier informs Antony that Enobarbus has left for Caesar's camp, leaving behind his treasure. Antony orders Eros to send Enobarbus' treasure to him, and plans to write a gentle farewell letter to his old friend.

Scene Six. Alexandria. Caesar's camp. Caesar enters with Agrippa, Dolabella, and Enobarbus. Octavius orders that Antony be taken alive. Octavius says that soon, the war will end and peace will reign over the known world. When a messenger arrives with news that Antony has come into the field, Caesar orders that the soldiers who defected from Antony be moved to the front lines. All exit except Enobarbus. Enobarbus informs us that all who defected from Antony to Caesar have no trust from their new master; Caesar went so far as to hang Alexas. Enobarbus is ashamed of his desertion. The Soldier enters, and tells him that Antony has sent him his goods. Enobarbus is horrified, and guilt-stricken. He resolves to find a foul ditch in which he can die.

Scene Seven. Field of battle between the camps. Agrippa and his soldiers retreat, having met with greater resistance than expected. Antony and his men are jubilant, and pursue the fleeing enemy.

Scene Eight. Before Alexandria. Antony has beaten Caesar back to his camp. He praises his men. Cleopatra enters, and Antony tells her that Scarus fought like a god. She thanks him with armor of gold. Antony orders a celebratory march through the city.

Scene Nine. Caesar's camp. A Sentry and Second Watch observe, unseen, as Enobarbus cries out grievously about his awful betrayal of Antony. He seems to swoon. The two soldiers go to him, and find that he is dead or dying.

Scene Ten. Between the two camps. Antony tells Scarus the battle plan.

Scene Eleven. Between the two camps. Caesar gives orders for troop movement.


Cleopatra cannot understand Roman duty and the Roman conception of honor. She must ask Enobarbus who bears responsibility for Actium, and she also has to ask what Antony means by his speech to his servants.

These short, quick scenes convey the sense of a rapid war. By this point, victory for Octavius is inevitable. There are times when Antony temporarily sets Octavius back, but even these scenes are rapid, so as not to give the impression of a permanent reversal. Shakespeare gives Antony a few last fleeting moments of glory, greatly expanding on the last battles from the terse version in Plutarch.

Antony is quite conscious of impending doom, although he puts a brave face on defeat. The coming end makes him emotional, and he indulges his tendency toward extravagance. Like Cleopatra, he has a sense of the theatrical, but as with her his love of drama does not mean that his emotions aren't genuine. Inevitable death has a way of bringing out theatrically and genuine emotions. One cannot imagine Octavius, even in defeat, making a similar gesture.

The taste for extravagant gesture also means that Antony will put up a good last fight, but Caesar is so passionless, objective, and rational that Antony might as well be fighting gravity. The theme of fate and historical necessity is very much present until the very end. The war has always seemed fated, and its progression has only made the end clearer. Caesar looks forward to the fulfillment of the Roman world's destiny: "The time of universal peace is near. / Prove this a prosp'rous day, the three-nooked world [three-cornered, the corners being Europe, Asian, and Africa] / Shall bear the olive freely" (4.6.5-7). Caesar hopes to achieve peace, although arguably his peace is the peace that cannot challenge one man's absolute power. With the political animal, such as Caesar, it is easier to see the process than the ultimate motivations. Does Caesar see his power as a means to a universal peace? Or is universal peace the natural and necessary status of an empire under his power alone?

Enobarbus' end is deeply concerned with questions of honor and loyalty. Enobarbus has stayed on longer than most of Antony's men. He does so because of honor, even after he knows Antony will lose: ". . . he that can endure / To follow with allegiance a fall'n lord / Does conquer him that did his master conquer / And earns a place I'th'story" (3.13.43-46). When Antony seems to be deprived of his good sense, Enobarbus deserts, but regrets it almost immediately. In Caesar's camp, Antony's men are used but never trusted. Caesar, with chilling calculation, orders that the defectors should make up his own front line, alluding euphemistically to the fact that the front line will take the worst casualties. Having betrayed one master, Antony's former friends cannot hope to be trusted by their new one.

Although Antony has failed at the most important points of Roman honor, in loyalty and generosity to his friends he is splendid. His gift to Enobarbus drives the deserter to die of grief. Enobarbus, who throughout most of the play has cynically observed the shortcomings and hypocrisy of others, in the end is obsessed with his own failure to be loyal to Antony. His insight, when turned on himself, drives him to grief. The play loses one of its most outspoken, objective, and insightful characters.