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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT I, SCENE 5
This scene returns to Alexandria where Cleopatra appears to be pining away during Antony's absence. She is surrounded by her attendants, Charmian, Iras, and Mardian (a eunuch). She asks Mardian if he ever feels passionate. He admits that he does even though he can do nothing about it. Cleopatra asks Charmian to give her a sedative so that she may sleep away her pain. It is clear that Charmian is Cleopatra's favorite waiting-woman and is comfortable in speaking her mind to her mistress. She openly criticizes Cleopatra for thinking too much about Antony. Cleopatra jestingly charges her with treason for saying such a thing.
Cleopatra torments herself by trying to imagine the location and action of Antony at the moment. Her thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Alexas, who brings a gift and news from the departed Triumvir. Cleopatra tells him that since he has been near Antony, he has become a more valuable servant to her. Her exaggerated emotions are like those of a lovesick teenager.
After giving Cleopatra the pearl sent to her by Antony, Alexas reports he sends his love and kisses with the gift. Antony also promises to win her more kingdoms so that she become the Queen of the East. When Cleopatra inquires about Antony's mood, Alexas reports that the Roman has been calm and balanced in his disposition since his departure from Alexandria. Surprisingly, Cleopatra is delighted that Antony is neither sad nor happy. She does, however, ask Alexas if he has seen her messengers, whom she sends every day with letters to Antony. She then asks her attendants to bring her ink and paper so she can pen another letter to her love.
Cleopatra converses with Charmian, contrasting her earlier love for Julius Caesar with her greater love for Antony. Charmian taunts Cleopatra, reminding her of her own words of love for Caesar at that time. Cleopatra scolds Charmian for comparing Julius Caesar to Antony, her "man of men." She says she was only fascinated with Julius Caesar out of ignorance. Back then she was "green in judgment, cold in blood." She then claims that her love for Antony is much stronger than anything she has felt before.
In this scene, more is learned about Cleopatra. With the departure of Antony, she is bored, having no one to entertain her. She thinks about him often and writes him a letter each day, suggesting that she truly cares about Antony; but her pouting about his absence makes her seem more like a child than the reigning monarch of a powerful country.
More is also learned about Charmian and Alexas, two of Cleopatra's attendants. Charmian is obviously the queen's favorite, for she often discusses personal matters with this servant and allows Charmian the freedom to speak her mind without fear of punishment. Since Charmian is not terribly bright or sophisticated, she usually says what is on her mind, even if it is not what Cleopatra wants or expects to hear. When Charmian makes a mistake, as when she tries to deflate the romantic excesses and hyperbole of her mistress, Cleopatra scolds her only lightly.
Cleopatra's evaluation of Alexas improves during the chapter. She is delighted with him for making contact with Antony and bringing her a gift and good news from him. Unlike Charmian who speaks her mind without thinking, Alexas carefully chooses his words and answers, evaluating Cleopatra's possible reactions to them.