Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Caesar, Agrippa, and Maecenas enter. Antony's letter has annoyed Caesar, partly because Antony treats him like a child and partly because Antony ordered Thidias to be whipped. Maecenas urges Caesar to calm down, saying anger impedes success. Antony's own anger shows how trapped he feels; Caesar will gain advantage by keeping him angry and distracted.

Caesar orders Maecenas and Agrippa to get the word out that tomorrow will be "the last of many battles we mean to fight." Antony's soldiers have defected to Caesar's side in such numbers to make Caesar confident of victory. He orders a feast for the army: his army is so well-stocked with provisions that they can afford the "waste" of a celebration. Caesar's last words, ending the scene, are "Poor Antony."

Analysis

Caesar, usually calm and detached, is quite worked up—for Caesar, that is. Antony's taunts sting, and they bother him more than expected. Calling Antony an "old ruffian" is out of character for a man who prides himself on restraint. But when Maecenas counsels him against anger, Caesar immediately regains his self-control and laughs at Antony's challenge of hand-to-hand combat. In calming down, Caesar is able to spare a moment of compassion for Antony, whom he knows he's going to defeat.

This is another of the short scenes that function as battle scenes in which leaders reveal their thoughts, plans, or emotions and in which readers follow the course of the action. In this case it seems as though Caesar's definitive victory will occur the next day.

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