Sunday, November 25, 2012

Men’s Judgments Are A Parcel Of Their Fortunes: Antony and Cleopatra – Act III

Scene I – A Plain in Syria

* Ventidius returned from Parthia with a win, he had revenged Crassus’ death by killing Pacorus—son of King of Parthia: Orodes. Though Ventidius could have achieved more in his war, he did not want to outrank his captain, Antony. Here is a clever soldier!
Who does i’ th’ 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.

Scene II – Rome. Caesar’s House

* Agrippa and Enobarbus mocked at Lepidus’ excessive love and praise for Caesar and Antony. Yeah…I realize it now. Was that Lepidus’ effort to maintain his position in the Triumvirs?

* Mark Antony and Octavia bid farewell to Caesar (they were going to Athens), and during the farewell Octavia said something secretly to her brother, what that was about, I wonder…

Scene III – Alexandria. Cleopatra’s Palace

* Once again Cleopatra looked like a foolish woman when she interrogated the messenger about Octavia; how she looked, how old she was, what kind of voice or color of hair she had, etc. Cleopatra might have done such things, but I can’t imagine her do that in the way Shakespeare wrote it. I miss the self-possessed  aura of Cleopatra. Was this the same queen of Egypt we are reading?

Scene IV – Athens. Antony’s House

* Separated from Antony, Caesar arranged hastily his way to the top. He waged a war against Pompey, and he seldom mentioned Antony’s services when reporting to the Senate. Octavia would depart to Rome to negotiate with her brother to prevent a civil war between two persons she loved the most. I’m glad Antony has acted very gentlemanly toward his wife:
Gentle Octavia,
Let your best love draw to that point which seeks
Best to preserve it. If I lose mine honor,
I lose myself; better I were not yours
Than yours so branchless.”

Scene V – Athens. Antony’s House

* Octavius finally betrayed Lepidus. Soon after winning the war against Pompey, he excelled Lepidus from Triumvirate, and even accused him for treason with Lepidus’ letter to Pompey. I’m wondering why Antony called Lepidus ‘fool’ ?....

Scene VI – Rome. Caesar’s House

* From Caesar’s point of view, Antony and Cleopatra made in public their condemnation of Rome and their ruling Egypt and the conquered countries. Caesar said that Alexander Helios and Ptolemy each ruled several countries. I don’t know whether Shakespeare has purposely forgotten Cleopatra Selene, because in fact she too had become the ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya.

* Seemed that Antony and Caesar were each accusing the other for holding the other’s share from each acquisition. Here Caesar defended himself that he deposed Lepidus because the later had been abusing his position. Oh come on Octavius… =__=

* Octavia arrived at Rome and met her brother. And what did he said to greet his (so called) beloved sister?
But you are come
A market-maid to Rome and have prevented
The ostentation of our love, which, left unshown,
Is often left unloved.”

If he knew that Antony has renewed his relationship with Cleopatra, then at least he could offer to comfort for his poor sister, instead of replying coldly…
Octavia: “…I begged his (Antony’s) pardon for return.”
Caesar:  “Which soon he granted,
   Being an obstruct ’tween his lust and him.”

Caesar then made Octavia change to his side. But I don’t think it’s as easy as that. I believe that Octavia was deeply in love with Antony, despite of his betrayal. Octavia stayed beside Octavius because she had no one else who loved her, but I think she still cared much for Antony. And I can imagine how hurt it must have been for Octavia.

Actium battle

Scene VII – Antony’s Camp Near Actium

* Enobarbus criticized Cleopatra’s presence in the war which would distract Antony’s mind and merely created another burden. Cleopatra enraged by this, and this was how Cleopatra must have had her conducts as the highest ruler of Egypt.
Sink Rome! And their tongues rot
That speak against us! A charge we bear i’ th’ war,
And as the president of my kingdom will
Appear there for a man. Speak not against it.
I will not stay behind.”
Go for it Cleopatra, and scowl that big mouth of Enobarbus!

* On the other hand, I don’t know what was happening with Antony—one of Rome’s greatest generals—has made an infamous decision of mobilizing his navy to fight Caesar, instead of battling on the land as his assistants recommended. So strong Cleopatra’s power was on him, Antony failed to listen to his men, he kept on saying stubbornly that he’ll fight by sea. So pity that such a great general should have been fallen because of lust…. :(

* While Antony was enjoying 'honeymoon' in Egypt, Caesar has been building his strong armies in disguise, that Antony’s spies failed to see it, that’s why he was suddenly so strong. Antony might be a more skillful general than Caesar, but Caesar was obviously a tougher and smarter politician. And at the end, the success/the fail were all it counted.

Scene VIII - X : The Actium battle

* Although Antony has prepared his armies on the land too, Caesar specifically instructed his men to not provoke any battle by land, because “our fortune lies upon this jump”. Caesar seemed to have held Antony’s weakness that he grew so confident. On the other hand it turned out that Antony did not know Caesar’s navy real strength before decided to fight be the sea! Egypt’s ships were attacked by Caesar’s but in critical moment, the Egyptian turned around then fled. And what Scarus had described about Antony’s conduct was really embarrassing. And so were several of his men who finally decided to desert. :( Well, not for Enobarbus. Big mouth he was—well, sometimes—but at least loyal (hopefully) to the end.
She once being loofed,
The noble ruin of her magic, Antony,
Claps on his sea-wing and, like a doting mallard
Leaving the fight in height, flies after her.
I never saw an action of such shame.
Experience, manhood, honor, ne’er before
Did violate so itself.”

Scene XI – Alexandria. Cleopatra’s Palace

* This is some of Antony’s words when he bid farewell to his men. Antony was always good with words, wasn’t he?
“…I have fled myself, and have instructed cowards
To run and show their shoulders. Friends, begone.
…You shall have letters from me to some friends that will
Sweep your way for you. Pray you, look not sad,
Nor make replies of loathness. Take the hint
Which my despair proclaims. Let that be left
Which leaves itself.”

Antony’s reflection was the most tragic piece in this play:
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 practice had
In the brave squares of war, yet now—no matter.”

Yet he did all of that all out of love…
“…O’er my spirit thy full supremacy thou knew’st, and that
Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods
Command me….
You did know
How much you were my conqueror, and that
My sword, made weak by my affection, would
Obey it on all cause.”

O Antony, how can I really blame you?

Scene XII – Caesar’s Camp In Egypt

* Antony and Cleopatra sent a messenger to make a plea to Caesar; to live in Egypt or Athens for Antony, and to let pass Egypt’s throne to Cleopatra’s heirs for the defeated queen. Caesar sent an official ambassador to Antony, but also sent Thyreus secretly to Cleopatra to make a false offer that she would be safe if she left Antony, and joining Caesar.

Scene XIII – Alexandria. Cleopatra’s Palace

* Antony challenged Caesar for sword-to-sword battle, and after the official ambassador leave with this reply, came Thyreus with the secret offer to Cleopatra. Enobarbus was proved to be the only loyal friend of Antony, that when he saw that Cleopatra seemed to welcome the offer, he went to warn Antony immediately. And Thyreus’ plan worked—although he must suffered several whips—for Antony was raged and scowled Cleopatra in very harsh words… “You were half blasted ere I knew you. Ha!” Oops… =__=. But wait.., what he was raged on? Was he jealous because he thought Cleopatra had flirted with Thyreus?

* Antony then—still in rage—decided to have a do-or-die battle against Caesar, a suicide move according to Enobarbus who began to seek way to leave his master.
When valor preys on reason,
It eats the sword it fights with.”

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