Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Summary Act 2


Conferring with his pirate allies, Menas and Menacretes, Pompey argues that they have the upper hand on account of Antony’s idleness, Octavius’ taxes (which have alienated him from the Roman masses), and Lepidus’ lack of endearment to either Antony or Octavius. When told that Octavius and Lepidus have deployed their armies and are poised to oppose Pompey, Pompey argues that as long as Antony, who is far and above the superior soldier, remains in a state of idleness, that he, Menas, and Menecrates have the upper hand. Anon, Varrius, a friend of Pompey, informs Pompey that expectation of Antony’s arrival in Rome is imminent. On account of Fulvius and Lucius (Antony’s brother) who have both defied Octavius, Menas surmises that Antony and Octavius will be at odds. Pompey agrees with Menas, but as he points out, that advantage may very well become moot as Octavius and Antony may very well reconcile for the sake of opposing Pompey, Menas, and Menecrates with a united front.


Lepidus is certain that Octavius and Antony will reconcile for the sake of the greater cause, but Enobarbus, whose counsels often provoke Antony as Charmian’s counsels provoke Cleopatra, isn’t so sure about that. Presently, the opposing sides gather for the sake of ironing out their differences. When Antony wonders why Octavius is so offended by that which doesn’t concern him (his business with Cleopatra is a private affair), Octavius wonders if Antony thinks that he--Caesar--could be so trivial as to be offended by a matter that would indeed be of no concern to him. Octavius cuts to the chase, reminding Antony that his former wife and his brother, Lucius, had the gall to defy and war against Octavius. And on whose behalf but on Antony’s would they be fighting, Octavius asks. Antony reminds Octavius of the letter he had sent Octavius in which he assured Octavius that he--Antony--did not approve of Lucius’ actions nor was Lucius fighting on Antony‘s behalf. As to his wife, Antony explains that she fought Caesar for the sake of luring Antony out of Egypt. Unappeased, Octavius argues that Antony had ignored Octavius’ messages that were sent to Egypt and in effect had reneged on his oath to back and support Caesar when required. Antony argues that he is at fault for neglecting his duties but he has not violated his oath.

They are thus at odds when Agrippa offers a solution. As Antony is now a widow, why not have him marry Octavia, Octavius’ sister, whose worth warrants a man as good as Antony, and thereby stabilize the ground upon which their alliance stands? Octavius questions Antony’s widow status, arguing that he is, for all intents and purposes, married to Cleopatra. It’s a notion that Antony dismisses as hogwash. He likes Agrippa’s solution. By and by, Octavius and Antony shake on it, and all seems to be in good order. Seems to be because, according to Enobarbus, Antony will never give up Cleopatra. Enobarbus relates to Agrippa and Maecenas of what it was like in Egypt when Antony first met Cleopatra, the pageantry of Cleopatra’s wealth and luxury, her captivating ways that had thoroughly beguiled Antony, and the subsequent time Antony and the Romans spent in Egypt, befitting epicures and hedons.


Telling Octavia that matters of state will often keep them separated, Antony bids his newlywed wife goodnight. Anon, Lamprius, the soothsayer, advises Antony to return to Egypt, arguing that vis-à-vis Octavius Antony will invariably lose at whatever contest that they are engaged in. Antony doesn’t want to hear it, but he senses the truth of what the soothsayer says. Confiding the audience that he had married Octavia for purely political reasons (for temporarily appeasing Octavius), Antony commissions one of his men to go to Parthia (to deal with the forces assembled by Labienus on behalf Brutus and Cassius), before he himself sets off for Mount Misenum and Pompey.


Lepidus bids Agrippa and Maecenas goodbye ‘til they meet at Mount Misenum, which is where Pompey and his forces are currently situated.


Cleopatra is beguiling the time by listening to music, playing billiards, fishing, and by sweetly pining for Antony when a messenger arrives from Italy. He hesitates to deliver his message, however, and for good reason: He has bad news. When he musters the courage to eventually tell Cleopatra that Antony has married Octavia, Cleopatra beats him and continues to beat him when he continuously confirms the truth of his message. The messenger runs away, but he is brought back and advised by Cleopatra to be more circumspect the next time when he has bad news, that it’s not the fashion to be so honest when delivering bad news. Anon, Cleopatra commissions Alexas to bring word from Rome as to Octavia’s traits and features. Feeling faint, Cleopatra retires, ordering Charmian to attend but not to speak to her.


Pompey and the three triumvirates hold a meeting as both sides have taken hostages and nothing good can come of continued hostilities. Pompey considers the triumvirates’ offer to call it a truce. If agreed to Pompey will be granted sovereignty over Sicily and Sardinia for which he must guarantee the end of all pirate activities on the coasts off Italy. It makes sense for Pompey to accept the deal as the triumvirates hold the overwhelming advantage on land which makes Pompey’s mastery of the seas a wash. But what really clinches the deal is the presence of Antony whose superior soldiering Pompey holds in high regard. By and by, the opposing parties shake on the truce and decide to celebrate the peace with wine galore. Pompey will host the party.

Menas, one of the pirates who is in league with Pompey, does not like the deal at all. He believes that Pompey is squandering an opportunity to gain considerably more. By and by, he and Enorbarbus recognize one another and they decide to go have a drink and toast one another. But before they do, Menas learns from Enobarbus that Antony’s marriage to Octavia was strictly political and as such it will inevitably lead to discord between Antony and Octavius.


Two servants note with contempt Lepidus’ inability to hold his drink. The spectacle is especially pathetic considering that Lepidus is one of the three giants of the world. Meanwhile, as Antony describes the wonders of Egypt to Lepidus, Menas begs to have a private word with Pompey. Pompey denies the request (as he too busy having fun drinking), but as Menas insists repeatedly Pompey obliges him. What he has to say this: If Pompey gives the go ahead, Menas will murder the triumvirate and make Pompey the ruler of the world. Pompey is against it, however, arguing that his honor wouldn’t allow him to be a party to such a dastardly deed. If Menas had performed the deed without making it known, then Pompey might have considered it a worthy deed. As it is, Pompey tells Menas to forget about it and indulge himself and drink which he does along with everyone else.

William Shakespeare