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Summary Act 3


Silius urges Ventidius to seek greater glory and to crush the fleeing Parthians--to no avail. Citing Sossius whose exploits in Syria, that were in excess of his commission, put him at odds with Antony, Ventidius argues that too much ambition in a subordinate will likely work against him.


With their affairs settled and peace prevailing in the Empire, the triumvirates go their separate ways. Pompey has already left, and presently Lepidus, Antony, and Octavius say their goodbyes. Octavia is especially sad to part with her brother (as she is now to accompany Antony). There’s another dimension to her sadness, however, as she whispers a secret in her brother’s ears which secret visibly upsets Octavius. Agrippa and Enobarbus, who have said their goodbyes to one another and are only waiting for their commanders to conclude their goodbyes, notice Caesar’s sudden change of countenance. Antony seems indifferent, however, as he wishes Octavius well, giving him one last hug.


The messenger, who had been beaten earlier for bringing bad news, is summoned again before Cleopatra. He is questioned about Octavia’s traits and features, including her height, her voice, her bearing, and the shape of her face among others. The messenger’s replies, which are respectively not tall, low in register, stiff and statue like, and roundish, pleases Cleopatra: Octavia is a decidedly inferior woman whose charms or the lack thereof will fail to captivate Antony for long. Charmian, Cleopatra’s confidant, categorically agrees with Cleopatra.


Citing her brother’s declaration of war against Pompey and his unstated animosity towards Antony, Antony tells Octavia that he will go ahead and raise an army to oppose her brother. Octavia vehemently objects, arguing that Antony could not possibly put her in a worse position as she could not side with one without offending the other. Antony argues that it’s okay for her to follow her heart, that he won’t hold it against her if she sided with her brother against Antony and presently grants her leave to go to her brother.


Eros informs Enobarbus that Octavius and Lepidus have warred against and defeated Pompey. Subsequently, Octavius has turned against Lepidus, accusing Lepidus of having conspired with Pompey. Ergo Lepidus is now as good as dead, leaving the rule of the Empire in the hands of Antony and Octavius, who are now poised to do battle for sole supremacy. Presently, Eros informs Enobarbus that he is to report to Antony.


Octavius Caesar confides in two of his officers, Maecenas and Agrippa, on the current state of affairs when Octavia arrives from Athens. Octavius grieves that she should come without ceremony, i.e. without an army of troops attending her as befitting the sister of Caesar. When she assures her brother that she had traveled without ceremony by choice and that her arrival is motivated by her wish to affect a reconciliation between Octavius and Antony, Octavius informs her of Antony’s perfidy. Contrary to what Octavia thinks, Antony is in Egypt, living it up with Cleopatra and granting their children with territories which should actually be divvied up between Antony and Octavius. In addition, Antony has demanded that Caesar divvy up the territories seized from Pompey and is currently raising a massive army to oppose Octavius Caesar.


To Enobarbus’ dismay, who would rather that Cleopatra stay behind lines, as her presence will distract Antony from making good decisions, Cleopatra resolves to accompany Antony to the very frontlines of the war. Alas, her cavalier attitude rubs off on Antony who decides to engage Caesar at sea though the smart thing to do is to engage Caesar by land where Antony has the clear advantage and vice versa. Antony’s officers resign themselves to being led by Cleopatra and her attendants of eunuchs and ladies in waiting, for it is Cleopatra to whom Antony answers.


Caesar orders Taurus, who is in command of Caesar’s land forces, to delay attacking until the battle at sea has concluded.


Antony instructs Enobarbus as to how they are to deploy their land forces.


All is lost when Cleopatra, for no good reason at all, flees from the battle which prompts Antony to follow her. Antony’s naval fleet is in ruins, and Canidius, who is in charge of Antony’s land forces, decides to surrender to Caesar. Scarus and Enobarbus decide to join Antony even though the advantage of doing so is negligible.


His shame is such that Antony orders his men to take his ship and divide the spoils among them. He will facilitate their reconciliation with Caesar. Presently, his man, Eros and a number of Cleopatra’s attendants persuade Cleopatra to console Antony. Cleopatra apologizes for having fled but argues that she never thought Antony would’ve followed. Antony reminds her that he is forever bound to her and wherever she goes he goes. They kiss and seek consolation in wine and food.


An ambassador, who was previously a lowly schoolmaster, arrives to plead on behalf of Antony and Cleopatra. Antony would like Caesar to let him--Antony--to stay and live in Egypt, and if not, to let him live in Athens. Alas, Caesar categorically denies Antony his requests. As to Cleopatra, she would like Caesar to let the Ptolemies be the heir apparent to Egypt. Caesar agrees to oblige Cleopatra’s request provided that she either refuse asylum to Antony and all his friends or she has Antony killed outright. Thus informed, the ambassador takes his leave. Presently, Caesar commissions Thidias to go to Cleopatra and try to have her give up on Antony, using flattery and whatever sweet incentives that Thidias can contrive to persuade Cleopatra.


To Cleopatra’s chagrin, Enorbarbus is clarifying the state of their utter futility when Antony is espied conferring with the Ambassador. Enraged at Caesar’s reply, Antony tells the ambassador to deliver the message that he--Antony--believes Caesar to be a callow youth and that he--Antony--dares him to accept Antony’s challenge to engage in a one-on-one swordfight. As Antony goes to put his message in writing, Enobarbus laments how love and anger has reduced his master to an utter fool. By and by, Thidias arrives with a message from Caesar which he insists are for Cleopatra’s ears only. Enorbarbus argues that as Antony has so few friends that it wouldn’t matter if Thidias’ message offends Antony. Thus persuaded, Thidias proceeds to flatter and charm Cleopatra, arguing that she owes no allegiance to Antony when Antony barges into the scene. He has Thidias dragged away to be whipped and then he chides Cleopatra for indulging the slave. When Thidias, having been whipped, is brought back, Antony sends him on his way, reminding him to tell Caesar that Antony defies him. Presently, arguing that his army and navy are yet forces to be reckoned with, Antony assures Cleopatra that when he leaves for battle tomorrow he will subsequently return bloodied albeit as a conquering hero. For now, he orders a night of revels for he and his men. Cleopatra is encouraged.

Meanwhile, pitying Antony, Enobarbus resolves to put as much distance between himself and Antony the first chance he gets.

William Shakespeare