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Summary Act 5


Caesar orders Dolabella to send word to Antony to surrender, that it’s utter foolishness to indefinitely delay the inevitable, when Decretus emerges with Antony’s bloodied sword and the news that Antony has died by his own hands, the bloodied sword attesting to the fact. Though this ought to come as good news, Caesar, Agrippa, and Maecenas can’t help but to grieve. Presently, a messenger from Cleopatra enters the scene to ask Caesar of Cleopatra’s fate. Caesar assures the messenger that Rome will be kind to Cleopatra. As the messenger leaves to deliver the message, Caesar commissions Proculeius to give Cleopatra further assurance of Rome’s good intentions and to make sure that she doesn’t kill herself and thereby deprive Caesar the honor that will be his if he manages to have Cleopatra alive and well and paraded before the people of Rome. By and by, Caesar invites Agrippa and Maecenas to confirm that his campaign against Antony was conducted while paying Antony the highest regard that an enemy might warrant.


Proculeius comes on Caesar’s behalf to assure Cleopatra that she is in good hands only to have her bound and restrained lest she resort to suicide. Defiant, Cleopatra declares that she would rather die rotting in an open grave in Egypt than be paraded as an object of derision in Rome. Presently, Dolabella takes custody of Cleopatra while Proculeius reports to Caesar. Dolabella’s courteousness and honesty are well appreciated by Cleopatra who sings the praises of Antony. Soon, they are joined by Caesar who assures Cleopatra that as long as she doesn’t follow Antony’s example and kill herself that her children will live and grow up to inherit Egypt. He even allows her to keep the treasures that she has failed to report--treasures that Seleucus, Cleopatra’s treasurer, makes known unto Caesar defying Cleopatra’s express command to keep their existence a secret. By and by, Caesar and his attendants leave, but not before informing Cleopatra that she and her children must set out for Rome in three days time.

Alone with her ladies-in-waiting, Cleopatra orders preparations be made for her final act. A basket is delivered by a country fellow who makes a point of cautioning Cleopatra, to mind what are contained in the basket. Nonetheless, dressing herself in her finest royal attire, Cleopatra kisses Iras and Charmian goodbye before applying the contents of the basket to her person. Cleopatra dies, and as Charmian straightens Cleopatra’s crown, which is sitting crooked, Caesar’s soldiers on guard come upon the scene only to witness Charmian die as she herself applies a poisonous snake to her person. Eventually, Caesar appears to behold the scene. He orders Cleopatra to be buried beside Antony, and exclaims that the world may never again behold such a glorious pair.

William Shakespeare