Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Act 3, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Enobarbus and Eros discuss war news. Eros reports Caesar and Lepidus, who defeated Pompey together, have fallen out. Caesar has charged Lepidus with treason and jailed him. With Lepidus out of the picture, Enobarbus compares the situation to an empty pair of jaws: with no food between them, Antony and Caesar will keep grinding each other, unable to peaceably share power. Nevertheless, Antony's navy is about to sail for Rome.

Analysis

Lepidus is timid and ineffectual, he hates to see people get angry, and he can't hold his liquor. As he is portrayed in this play, it is hard to see how he could ever have become a triumvir. Because there was in fact a historical Lepidus, and because Caesar did break with him, Shakespeare had little choice but to include him. Because this play contains little humor, portraying Lepidus as a comic figure seems a good dramatic move on Shakespeare's part. It may seem harsh for this ineffectual nobody to end up in jail, but the fate of the historic Lepidus would have been dull on stage. He was stripped of his power in 36 BCE and gradually faded from public notice. His son tried to kill Octavius Caesar in 30 BCE, giving Lepidus the added shame of being a would-be assassin's father.

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