Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Act 3, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

In Greece, Antony is complaining to Octavia about Caesar. Antony is convinced Caesar is plotting against him. Despite the truce, Caesar has again fought with Pompey; he has read his will in public; he has found countless occasions to denigrate Antony. A distraught Octavia begs Antony not to believe everything he's heard, or at least not to be so angry about it. Octavia is pinned between husband and brother, and if they break their alliance, what will be left of her, who has "no midway 'twixt these extremes?"

Somewhat calmer, Antony tells Octavia he'll allow her to return to Rome to try to reconcile him with Caesar. He'll draw up plans for fighting Pompey while Octavia is away. Octavia thanks him, observing that for her, a war between Antony and Caesar would be like having the world cut in two. Antony ominously remarks that once she's seen who began the hostilities (i.e., Caesar), Octavia will want to take his side. "Our faults can never be so equal that your love can equally move with them."

Analysis

It seems Antony is allowing Octavia to visit Caesar because she has asked him for permission, not because he and Caesar still have anything in common. It will become evident later in the play that Antony is right to suspect Caesar, who has begun systematically eliminating his former allies. Once again, the appearance of honor is different from the fact: despite his sobriety, seriousness, and self-righteous demeanor, Caesar is willing to betray his word and a signed treaty.

That Antony cares little for Octavia also is evident by the way he talks about Caesar and distrusts him. He seems to take little notice that he is talking about her brother. When Octavia explains the pain of being caught in the middle of the two men's hostilities, she is begging him to understand her problem, yet he brushes her off without a single kind word. He is uninterested in or does not understand the subtext of her words.

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