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Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Act 4, Scene 10 | Summary



Antony, Scarus, and their army enter. Antony comments today's battle will be by sea because Caesar's army fared so poorly on land. He wishes the situation were otherwise, but the sea battle has already been ordered. Antony takes up a spot from which he'll be able to watch the ships.


This very short scene contains an interesting reference to the four elements. Ancient Greeks believed all matter was composed of four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. This notion existed for centuries and was certainly still around in Shakespeare's time. When Antony says, "I would they'd fight i'th'fire or I'th'air," he is referring to the second pair of elements. He and Caesar have already fought by land and sea (earth and water); if their battle were to extend to fire and air, Antony would be glad to fight them there as well.

Antony's observation comes at a moment in which he may be worried about the upcoming sea battle. He knows all too well Caesar's navy is better than his. Perhaps his mind takes refuge in the idea of fighting in fantasy settings that would be new to both armies; perhaps he also wishes he could simply take refuge from the next few hours. "But this it is," he continues tersely. It's a 17th-century way of saying "It is what it is." Whether or not Antony's navy is at a disadvantage, the battle will be fought at sea.

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