Powerplays in Antony and Cleopatra #

When the play begins, Octavius, Lepidus and Antony share the tripartite world in more or less equal parts. By the end of Act III, Octavius has managed to clamber on top by treachery against Lepidus and Antony has kissed away kingdoms under the sway of Cleopatra.

Antony and Caesar #

From Julius Caesar

Antony tells a servant that:

Caesar did write for him (Octavius) to come to Rome.


He did receive his letters, and is coming; III. 1 278 - 280

Soon later he warns the servant:

ANTONY is concerned Octavius may be the next victiom of th conspirators.

Post back with speed, and tell him what hath chanced:
Here is a mourning Rome, a dangerous Rome,
No Rome of safety for Octavius yet;
Hie hence, and tell him so.

there shall I try
In my oration, how the people take
The cruel issue of these bloody men;
According to the which, thou shalt discourse
To young Octavius of the state of things.
III. 1. 199 - 297

ANTONY in the procription scene attempts to assert his seniority: (He is 38, Octavious about 20)

Octavius, I have seen more days than you

Their first open disputes occurs when the young Octavious (18) challenges Antony (38) as to who should be in charge of the battle.


Octavius, lead your battle softly on,
Upon the left hand of the even field.

OCTAVIUS Upon the right hand I; keep thou the left.

ANTONY Why do you cross me in this exigent?

OCTAVIUS I do not cross you; but I will do so.


From Antony and Cleopatra

OCTAVIUS CAESAR Welcome to Rome.

MARK ANTONY Thank you.




What do the two scenes indicate a jockeying for dominance? Who wins?

This is followed by a frank and robust discussion about each others perceived greivances:


I learn, you take things ill which are not so,
Or being, concern you not.

OCTAVIUS CAESAR feels that Antony is not respectful of him.

I must be laugh’d at,
If, or for nothing or a little, I
Should say myself offended, and with you
Chiefly i’ the world; more laugh’d at, that I should
Once name you derogately, when to sound your name
It not concern’d me.


My being in Egypt, Caesar,
What was’t to you?


No more than my residing here at Rome
Might be to you in Egypt: yet, if you there
Did practise on my state, your being in Egypt
Might be my question.

MARK ANTONY How intend you, practised?

OCTAVIUS CAESAR accuses Antony’s borther and wife of treason to the state.

You may be pleased to catch at mine intent
By what did here befal me. Your wife and brother
Made wars upon me; and their contestation
Was theme for you, you were the word of war.


You do mistake your business; my brother never
Did urge me in his act: I did inquire it;
And have my learning from some true reports,
That drew their swords with you. Did he not rather
Discredit my authority with yours;
And make the wars alike against my stomach,
Having alike your cause? Of this my letters
Before did satisfy you. If you’ll patch a quarrel,
As matter whole you have not to make it with,
It must not be with this.

OCTAVIUS CAESAR of making up excuses:

You praise yourself
By laying defects of judgment to me; but
You patch’d up your excuses.


Not so, not so;
I know you could not lack, I am certain on’t,
Very necessity of this thought, that I,
Your partner in the cause ‘gainst which he fought,
Could not with graceful eyes attend those wars
Which fronted mine own peace. As for my wife,
I would you had her spirit in such another:
The third o’ the world is yours; which with a snaffle
You may pace easy, but not such a wife.

Caesar and Cleopatra #

EUPHRONIUS a messenger from Antony and Cleopatra sue for favourable peace from Octavious:

Lord of his fortunes he salutes thee, and
Requires to live in Egypt: which not granted,
He lessens his requests; and to thee sues
To let him breathe between the heavens and earth,
A private man in Athens: this for him.
Next, Cleopatra does confess thy greatness;
Submits her to thy might; and of thee craves
The circle of the Ptolemies for her heirs,
Now hazarded to thy grace.


For Antony,
I have no ears to his request. The queen
Of audience nor desire shall fail, so she
From Egypt drive her all-disgraced friend,
Or take his life there: this if she perform,
She shall not sue unheard. So to them both.

THYREUS offers terms of surrender, which Cleopatra appears to find acceptable at first.

Shall I say to Caesar
What you require of him? for he partly begs
To be desired to give. It much would please him,
That of his fortunes you should make a staff
To lean upon: but it would warm his spirits,
To hear from me you had left Antony,
And put yourself under his shrowd,
The universal landlord.


Most kind messenger,
Say to great Caesar this: in deputation
I kiss his conquering hand: tell him, I am prompt
To lay my crown at ’s feet, and there to kneel:
Tell him from his all-obeying breath I hear
The doom of Egypt.

Relationships with inferior officers:** #

Antony orders his officers, SILIUS and Ventidius to attack the Parthians (Persians), a formiddable enemy who had defeated and killed Crassus, the third member of the first triumverate. When they succeed, Antony takes the credit even though he took no part in the campaign.


Noble Ventidius,
Whilst yet with Parthian blood thy sword is warm,
The fugitive Parthians follow; spur through Media,
Mesopotamia, and the shelters whither
The routed fly: so thy grand captain Antony
Shall set thee on triumphant chariots and
Put garlands on thy head.

VENTIDIUS knows better; don’t outshine your superiors as they will resent and seek your ruin.

O Silius, Silius,
I have done enough; a lower place, note well,
May make too great an act: for learn this, Silius;
Better to leave undone, than by our deed
Acquire too high a fame when him we serve’s away.
Caesar and Antony have ever won
More in their officer than person: Sossius,
One of my place in Syria, his lieutenant,
For quick accumulation of renown,
Which he achieved by the minute, lost his favour.
Who does i’ the wars more than his captain can
Becomes his captain’s captain: and ambition,
The soldier’s virtue, rather makes choice of loss,
Than gain which darkens him.
I could do more to do Antonius good,
But ’twould offend him; and in his offence
Should my performance perish.

VENTIDIUS makes the audacious claim that both Caesar and Antony rely more on their second-in-command than their own prowess.

Caesar and Antony have ever won
More in their officer than person:

MARK ANTONY after retreating following Cleopatra realises how his flutulating fortunes have changed when he had rank over Octavious:

Yes, my lord, yes; he at Philippi kept
His sword e’en like a dancer; while I struck
The lean and wrinkled Cassius; and ’twas I
That the mad Brutus ended: he alone
Dealt on lieutenantry, and no practise had
In the brave squares of war: yet now–No matter.

Sexual Politics #

“But everybody knows that love is brutal. A thousand songs tell the story. Love tears right through to the centre of us, into our secret self and lays it wide open…What people find really hard to bear is the suggestion that they themselves might contain their share of human darkness, hidden inside their souls.” Helen Garner

The Greeks identify at least eight variations of love:

Storge Family love.

Philia (Latin - Amicitia) Pure friendship based on common interests.

Agape (Latin – Caritas) Pure, disinterested, altruistic.

Eros - Lust of a sexual nature. carnal desire, concentration on one particular individual.

Ludus love as a game, playing to win through deception and manipulation

Pragma - Practicality Logic for compatibility and future prospects. These needs might be social or financial.

Mania- an obsessive love style emotionally dependent and needy, experiencing peaks of joy and troughs of sorrow with possessiveness leading to jealousy.

philautia - self-love - Self-worth or esteem. Adversely it can include vanity, hubris and egomania.

Marriage is a relationship that offers, (but does not guarantee) all. It begins with Eros and can add or change to Philia and with the arrival of children, develop into Storge,. Agape enables one to do the distasteful and wearying services that are occasionally needed in any family.

Germaine Greer maintains Shakespeare still has a lot to teach because he never offers easy answers. His plays and sonnets reveal a man well versed in the complications arising from love.

“What actually happens in a Shakespeare play is you’re prevented from arriving at easy certainties. Everything you think you understand is challenged. So you have to recast your ideas."

“This is what makes the plays work – because everything keeps shifting.”

Greer’s special area of interest. Her PhD, The Ethic of Love and Marriage in Shakespeare’s Early Comedies, was awarded in 1968. She had studied four of his plays: Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew and Love’s Labour’s Lost.

She concluded:

‘It is by now commonplace to point out that in feudal literature romantic love was essentially anti-social and adulterous."

Shakespeare is unromantic in his view of marriage: his practical view is summarised approvingly:

‘He recognised it as a difficult state of life, requiring discipline, sexual energy, mutual respect and great forbearance: he knew there were no easy answers to marital problems, and that infatuation was no basis for continued cohabitation.‘

European royal courts were utopian free-love communities, consensual non-monogamy, polyamory became so popular, adultery, infidelity, transgressive sex, guilt and commitment free sex have been around for ages. When the New World variant of syphillis arrived in Spain, it spread quickly from Italy, France and England. The British called it the French disease, The French - the English pox and nobody, for a chnage, blamed the Spanish

Late life, or mature, love is a more articulate love of verbal jousting. We love each other in words, more than in passions. The urge is still there but not so urgent. Growing older changes how we view things.

Love is one of the greatest mysteries of life; we don’t know where it comes from, nor where it goes to when it dies.