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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT III, SCENE 11
The scene opens in Alexandria, where a dejected Antony enters. It is obvious that he has lost all his confidence and self-respect because of his cowardly act of fleeing from the middle of the battle.
His first spoken words reveal his state of mind: "Hark! the land bids me tread no more upon't; / It is asham'd to bear me." Filled with remorse over his foolish action, Antony begins to distribute his gold and treasure among his attendants and friends. He advises them to take the gold and flee for safety. He then prays to be left alone.
Cleopatra enters with her attendants, Charmian, Iras, and Eros. Antony bitterly reproaches Cleopatra for deserting the cause and betraying him. He talks about his former faithful friends, like Cassius and Brutus, who would never have betrayed him like she has done. The attendants try to calm the situation and heal the gulf between Antony and their mistress. When Antony clams down, he sees that Cleopatra is genuinely distressed and ashamed of her behavior. She begs for forgiveness, saying that she did not think Antony and his men would follow her "fearful sails. Antony, feeling reconciled to her, says that his "heart was to thy rudder tied by the strings."
As Cleopatra begins to cry, Antony tells her that a single tear form her eye is worth everything won or lost. He also asserts that a single kiss from her more than repays the shame she has caused him.
As the scene draws to a close, Antony mentions that he has sent the old school master to talk with Caesar about the terms of a peace treaty.
This scene depicts the state of mind of Antony after his defeat and his reconciliation with Cleopatra. He claims that he is very ashamed of his cowardice in fleeing from battle, choosing to follow the lead of his beloved Cleopatra. Although he does not openly admit it, it is obvious that he is also ashamed to have been defeated by Caesar, a very young adversary whose power Antony underestimated. In spite of his shame, Antony still makes excuses for himself (which he will continue to do until his death.) He even buys into the theory of magic suggested throughout the play, claiming that perhaps he has been so entranced by Egypt that his judgement has been clouded. In truth, his thinking has been clouded by his love for Cleopatra, whom he places above all things. Remember, he has deserted his position in Rome and left Octavia, his wife, to be with the Egyptian queen. She also encouraged him to fight Caesar on the sea, saying her sixty ships were certainly a match for the fleet of Caesar.
When Cleopatra enters, Antony turns on her, criticizing her for betraying him and deserting the cause. The charming Cleopatra, however, begs for forgiveness and sheds a tear, causing Antony to melt and reconcile with her. In the end he says that one kiss from her lips or one tear from her eye erases the agony of defeat or the shame of having deserted the battle. Like an infatuated teenager, Antony still continues to put his love for Cleopatra above everything.
It is important to note that Shakespeare's account of the reconciliation between Antony and Cleopatra differs from that given by Plutarch. Plutarch says that after the disastrous battle, Antony goes and sits down alone on the prow of his ship, not speaking to anybody for three days. Finally, through the efforts of Cleopatra's attendants, reconciliation is made between Antony and the Egyptian queen. It is obvious that Shakespeare has changed the facts given by Plutarch in order to create more dramatic action in the play.
ACT III, SCENE 12
Euphronius, the old school master, arrives to talk to Caesar about a peace treaty. Dolabella, Caesar's officer, perceptively realizes that Antony's circumstances have nose-dived to the point that he does not have anybody higher than a school master to send on a mission of crucial importance.
Euphronius is allowed to see Caesar and tells him that Antony wishes to live in Egypt. If that is not amenable to him, then he prays to be allowed to live in Athens as a private citizen. Euphronius then states that Cleopatra accepts Caesar's supremacy and submits to him. Her only requests are to remain the Queen of Egypt and to wear the crown of the Ptolemies, which she wants to save for her heirs. Caesar rebuffs Antony's requests. He, however, says that he will think of granting Cleopatra her requests if she drives Antony away from Egypt or takes his life there. Caesar then sends to Cleopatra to tell her about his bargain. Since he has a low opinion of women, Caesar believes that Cleopatra will gladly give up Antony to save her own life and crown.
Caesar now thinks that he is in complete control, and he clearly displays his supremacy in this scene. When Euphronius asks permission for Caesar to remain in Egypt or at least in Athens, Caesar does not grant permission. It is clear that Caesar plans to take Antony's life, for he cannot trust this once powerful enemy.
Caesar tries to bribe Cleopatra. He will perhaps let her retain the crown of the Ptolemies and remain the Queen of Egypt if she kills Antony or at least drives him from Egypt. The audience, however, does not trust Caesar to keep this bargain, for he wants to be the sole ruler of the world.