Study Guide

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Act II, Scene vi

By William Shakespeare

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Act II, Scene vi

  • Back at Mount Misenum, in southern Italy, Pompey’s crew has just walked in to meet with the triumvirate and attendants. They’re ready to do some old-school negotiating before they fight. Caesar refers to a letter the triumvirs sent that outlines some terms the enemies can discuss.
  • Pompey points out he’s fighting to avenge the death of his father.
  • (A history lesson: Pompey (the elder) was defeated by Julius Caesar and had to flee to Egypt, where he was murdered.)
  • Ignoring this, Antony points out that although Pompey’s force at sea is masterful, Rome’s land forces far outweigh Pompey’s.
  • Pompey knows they're right about his troops being out of their league on land, and when pressed, he goes over the terms that have been offered. The triumvirs have said that Pompey can have Sicily and Sardinia if he rids the sea of pirates and sends wheat to Rome on occasion. (Remember with Pompey’s sea control, he strangled shipping lanes, so goods to Rome were blocked. Hungry Romans = angry Romans.)
  • Pompey is ready to agree to the terms except for one little thing. It seems that he entertained Antony’s mom in Sicily while Caesar and Antony’s brother Lucius was at war. Pompey just wants his generosity to be acknowledged.
  • Antony apologizes and admits he owes Pompey some big thank yous. Thousands of lives are saved and war is averted.
  • They shake on it, and agree to feast together, but not before Pompey gets in a few jibes at Antony about how being with Cleopatra means that he’s getting Julius Caesar’s sloppy seconds.
  • Enobarbus, Antony’s friend and confidante, stops the joking around before someone gets their throat cut, and they all go carousing on Pompey’s ship.
  • Menas, Pompey’s friend, and Enobarbus, from Antony’s camp, are left alone to discuss the newly made truce. They’re friends, though they admit there’s a little edge to this whole affair. Pompey the elder would never have done what Pompey the younger has done. Having made this compromising pact, the younger Pompey can kiss his good fortune goodbye. You weren’t supposed to make nice with the enemy, it seems. It wasn’t the manly, Roman thing to do.
  • They then discuss how Antony has married Octavia, which was clearly for political purposes, as Octavia is a quiet and cold, especially compared to the sultry Cleopatra waiting in Egypt.
  • Enobarbus predicts that, rather than seal the bond between Antony and Caesar, the marriage will ruin any goodwill between the men because there's no way that Antony will remain faithful to Octavia. Antony’s inevitable betrayal of Octavia is bound to anger Caesar.

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Act II, Scene vi Study Group

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