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Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Act 4, Scene 7 | Summary



Against a background of battle noises, Agrippa enters with some of Caesar's soldiers and calls for retreat. Caesar is struggling; Antony's army is fiercer than expected. Caesar's men exit, replaced by Antony and Scarus. Though wounded, Scarus is elated. If they'd fought this way in the first battle against Caesar, they would have sent Caesar's men home in bandages.

Eros enters and announces Caesar's men are beaten for the moment, and Antony's chances look good. Scarus says Antony's men should follow them as they retire from the field. Antony promises to reward Scarus for his bravery and encouragement.


In short scenes like this one, Shakespeare has made every word count. Caesar's army is in retreat; the fighters have overextended themselves; Caesar himself is struggling; and Antony's forces are stronger than expected. In his brief update—a scant 16 words—Agrippa manages to communicate so much that an actual scene of the two armies fighting is unnecessary. The battle sounds in the background create the illusion of battle taking place just outside the line of sight.

Scarus's mention of his H-shaped wound seems startling: it's almost childish, and perhaps even comical. But it is the kind of detail a wounded soldier would notice. And what a precise image it conveys! The audience is certain to understand the nature of the wound immediately. Once again, this economy of language and stagecraft spares the director the necessity of managing fake blood.

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