Study Guide

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Act II, Scene v

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Act II, Scene v

  • Cleopatra misses Antony, and jokes with her servants about the times they had.
  • She likens Antony to a fish she caught in the river, and notes that last time she caught him she kept him for quite some time, "Ere the ninth hour, I drunk him to his bed," (i.e., they were rather voracious in their appetites for each other).
  • Interestingly, Cleopatra dressed him up in her headdresses and clothes, and she wore the sword he used in the battle against Brutus and Cassius at Philippi. This moment of sharing is interrupted by a messenger who brings news from Rome.
  • Cleopatra can tell by his face that it’s not great news. She worries that Antony is dead, or that he’s Caesar’s captive or something terrible. She keeps interrupting the messenger, threatening him if he brings bad news and promising gold if he brings good.
  • Finally, the messenger points out Antony is alive and well, but bound to Octavia "for a turn i’ th’ bed."
  • Cleopatra, Antony’s former partner for such bed turns, flies into a rage, beats the messenger herself, and eventually draws a knife. He runs away, thinking his job was to tell the truth, not to bear its consequences.
  • She eventually calms out of crazed mood, and calls the messenger back, admitting she has acted like she’s on Jerry Springer. She says it’s not the poor messenger's fault that Antony sleeps around.
  • She has the messenger repeat that Antony’s married a few more times, adding to the drama.
  • As she dismisses the servant, she’s still in a sad rage, and points out that praising Antony has made her dispraise Julius Caesar (her original lover). She’s sure this is punishment for her short memory.
  • Cleopatra sends her servant, Alexas, to follow the messenger and ask that he bring back word of what Octavia is likeher age, manner, height, hair color. She’d like to size up the competition.

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