Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Act 4, Scene 6 | Summary

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Summary

Caesar orders Agrippa to begin the fight and to capture Antony alive if possible. As Agrippa leaves, Caesar exults, "The time of universal peace is near." When a messenger arrives to say Antony's army is on the field, Caesar tells Agrippa to position in the front lines all the soldiers who have deserted Antony. This placement will make Antony feel as though he is fighting himself.

Everyone leaves but Enobarbus, feeling regret about both his safety and his honor. Antony's lieutenant Alexas has deserted and persuaded King Herod also to follow Caesar, and what happened? Caesar had Alexas hanged. Enobarbus knows he's done wrong in leaving Antony's service and feels even worse when one of Caesar's soldiers enters and tells him Antony has had Enobarbus's treasure shipped to him. Heartbroken Enobarbus knows he has deserted a great man. "I fight against thee [Antony]? No." Instead, he'll find a ditch to die in.

Analysis

Caesar's coldhearted plan to put Antony's deserters in the front lines forces Enobarbus to reflect on the bad choice he has made by leaving Antony. Not only has he let himself down, he's now serving a commander who welcomes deserters into his ranks and then uses them as metaphorical cannon fodder, as well as psychological torture for Antony. Enobarbus's statement "I will joy no more" and his exaggerated collapse into "I'm worthless" mode may seem generic, but Shakespeare needs to pave the way for a death scene. Enobarbus is a good character, but he has served his purpose. His remorse over a decision he considers wrong drives him to death rather than seeing it through and fighting.

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