Study Guide

The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Act V, Scene i

By William Shakespeare

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Act V, Scene i

  • Back at Caesar’s camp, Caesar sends Dolabella off to tell Antony to yield.
  • Just then, Decretas, one of Antony’s men, enters with Antony’s sword. He announces he served Mark Antony while the good man lived and will serve Caesar now, if Caesar will have him.
  • Caesar asks for clarification, and gets out of the woebegone Decretas that Antony is dead.
  • Caesar is shocked and says the world should mourn, as Antony’s death is not a single one, but cause for grief on the part of half of the world (over which he was ruler).
  • Decretas explains Antony took his own life, adding honor to the final act of suicide, just as those same hands had added honor to so many acts before this one.
  • Caesar weeps, and excuses himself, saying it is only befitting to weep over the death of kings, even if it’s a king you were trying to kill.
  • Maecenas insightfully contends that Antony was a mirror to Caesar, that Caesar saw part of himself in Antony.
  • Just as Caesar launches into a speech over what a disaster it is that the two brothers in fate have come to this end, he’s interrupted by a messenger from Cleopatra.
  • The Queen wants to know what Caesar will do with her, so she can prepare herself. Caesar claims to the messenger that he’ll be gentle with her, and cause her no shame.
  • As soon as the messenger leaves, Caesar calls Proculeius to him. Caesar instructs him to go to Cleopatra and give her what she wants to keep her comfortable. Proculeius’s real job, though, is to make sure Cleopatra doesn’t kill herself, as Caesar’s plan is to put her in his triumphant march through Rome, as a symbol of how great his victory is.
  • Caesar worries the Queen will kill herself and thus rob him of the glee he’d get from parading her through the streets as his prize.
  • Caesar asks his men to follow him to his tent, where he’ll show them writings that prove he was reluctant to go into this war, and further, that when in the war, he proceeded calmly and gently.

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