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Free Study Guide-Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare-Book Notes
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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

ACT III, SCENE 8

Summary

This is a very brief scene of less than ten lines. It merely shows Caesar issuing commands to his lieutenant Taurus, telling him that they will strike by sea, not by land. He further warns him to keep the defense ready.

Notes

In two short sentences, the powerful and ambitious Caesar reveals his military strategy and his quality of command. He is self- assured and certain of victory.


ACT III, SCENE 9

Summmary

Antony and Enobarbus appear alone on an empty stage, and Enobarbus does not speak a word. Antony says some hurried lines that serve no definite purpose. He then entrusts a part of his land forces to Enobarbus' control and tells him that they should position themselves to see the number of ships that Caesar has sent so that they can plan a proper strategy.

Notes

Antony's unclear plans contrast with Caesar's clarity of purpose and total command of the situation. From the very beginning, Antony seems to accept that he is in a defensive position, while Caesar is on the offensive.

ACT III, SCENE 10

Summary

Scene 10 opens with the symbolic marching and countermarching of the troops that are not going to fight in the naval engagement. When the troops march off the stage, the noise of a sea battle is heard. At the height of the battle and before the sickened gaze of Enobarbus, Cleopatra's sixty ships turn tail and flee. Antony, "like a doting mallard, meekly follows." Enobarbus cannot contain his fury at the sight and exclaims, "Naught, naught, all naught! I can behold no longer.

Scarus, who is watching the progress of the fighting with Enobarbus, says that the battle was on an even keel until Cleopatra deserted. As a result, he holds her responsible for the loss. He also blames her for using magic on Antony, for he cannot believe that a great warrior like Antony could otherwise act with "such shame." Because of Cleopatra and her magic, he feels that they "have kissed away / Kingdoms and provinces."

At the end of the scene, Canidius decides to surrender to Caesar. The scene then closes with Enobarbus saying that he will stay with Antony though his reason counsels him against it.

Notes

This is clearly a battle scene, even though the battle is only heard in the background, not seen on the stage. The audience learns what is happening in the fighting from Enobarbus and Scarus, who are watching the naval engagement unfold. The are horrified to see that Cleopatra's sixty ships flee from the fight with Antony following.

The characters watching the desertion of Cleopatra and Antony react differently. Enobarbus is totally disgusted with Antony's weakness. His fury and sense of shame over Antony's loss lead him to make cynical comments. Canidius has given up all hope of victory; he plans to surrender to Caesar. Scarus vents his anger by blaming the defeat totally on Cleopatra. The general opinion seems to be that the battle could have been won had Antony not fled from the scene of action.

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