Act 2, Scene 5 Notes from Antony and Cleopatra

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Antony and Cleopatra Act 2, Scene 5

Cleopatra, Charmian, Iras, and Alexas enter. Cleopatra calls for music, and Mardian the eunuch enters. She asks Charmian to play billiards with her, but Charmian's arm is sore and she asks Mardian to play. Cleopatra decides that she will go fishing instead, and she will pretend that each fish she catches is Antony. Charmian recalls one time when Antony and Cleopatra went fishing together, and Cleopatra joins in the recollection: they got very drunk, went to bed, and in the morning she dressed him up in her clothes and she wore his sword.

Topic Tracking: East/West 4

A messenger arrives from Italy, and Cleopatra gets very excited, and urges him to bring her news of Antony. He starts to say something, and she cuts him off, saying that if he tells her Antony is dead, he is in fact killing her, but if he tells her Antony is well, she will reward him greatly with gold. He tells her Antony is well, but she cuts him off again, worrying that "well" is a word that people use to refer to the dead; she once again threatens him, and says that if Antony were in fact healthy, he would not have such a sour face. She again tells him she will reward him if he tells her that Antony is alive, healthy, and friends with Caesar. He tells her all of these things, and after she has cut him off one more time to recap what he has said and add that Antony is free as well, the messenger answers that Antony is not, in fact, free. He is married to Octavia. Cleopatra flies into a rage and strikes the messenger, cursing at him and insulting him. He pleads with her, saying that he has just brought the news, not made the match. She tells him if he takes it back, she will again reward him, but he tells her again that Antony is married. Cleopatra draws a knife, and the messenger runs away. Charmian tells Cleopatra to mind what she does, for the messenger is innocent. Cleopatra promises she will not hurt him and sends for him again. Cleopatra acknowledges that she has been wrong:

"These hands do lack nobility, that they strike
meaner than myself, since I myself
Have given myself the cause."
Act 2, Scene 5, ll. 83-85

The messenger enters again, and she asks him again to tell her if Antony is married. He says that he is, and she tells him that there is nothing that could make him more hateful than he is at this moment, although she acknowledges that it is a shame that Antony's bad news should damage the messenger's character, since he is probably otherwise a decent man. She tells him to leave, wishing financial ruin on him. She tells Alexas to go find out what Octavia looks like and to come back to report, and tells Charmian to pity her, but not to speak to her, as they go to her chamber.

Topic Tracking: Messengers 4

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