Study Guide

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Act I, Scene ii

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Act I, Scene ii

  • Charmian and Iras, Cleopatra’s maids, chat with a soothsayer (a.k.a., a fortuneteller). He tells them their fortunes are alike in that their pasts are better than their futures and that they’ll both outlive the woman they serve. They tease the soothsayer and dismiss his prophecies.
  • The giggle-fest is broken up when Cleopatra comes in looking for Antony, who was all revelry until he suddenly went into a bad mood thinking about Rome.
  • Cleopatra is a feisty one: she exits when Antony enters so as not to see him, even though she had just sent his man Enobarbus to go find him. Oh, the games!
  • A messenger is telling Antony some bad news: his wife Fulvia went to war with his brother Lucius, but then joined forces with Lucius against Octavius Caesar, who promptly beat them both. Further, Labienus, an old enemy of the Roman triumvirate, has begun to conquer the territories of Asia and the east that Antony is supposed to be ruling.
  • The servant hesitates to hint that maybe this wouldn’t have happened if somebody had been paying attention, and Antony admits he needs to hear about his faults.
  • Antony resolves to leave Egypt when he gets the news that his wife is dead. He’s often wished for her to be dead, but now that she is, he wishes that it hadn’t happened.
  • When Antony tells Enobarbus that he has to leave Egypt, Enobarbus says that will kill Cleopatra. He also suggests to Antony that the death of his wife, Fulvia, is actually a blessing. It makes things far less complicated. 
  • Still, Antony is resolved to finish the business Fulvia started in Rome. To make matters worse, Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey (who fought Julius Caesar and lost), has begun to gain power at sea and is now challenging Octavius Caesar. Someone’s got to help.
  • Antony sends Enobarbus to let Cleopatra know he’s got work to attend to in Rome. He’s got to go.

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