The fourth act of Antony and Cleopatra is again set in field of war. Not really my kind of play. Yet there are things I want to pay attention to.
Firstly, the sign. Remember the soothsayer that told Antony not to fight Caesar? Well, “divine signs” have been a feature in old classics that must not be taken slightly. Just as Julius, Antony doesn't listen to the soothsayer (or has forgotten his warning) and wages war against Caesar. But then there is another sign coming among his men.
“Tis the god Hercules, whom Antony loved,
Now leaves him.”
To have such a sign like that means things won't work well with Antony. But it has nothing to do with us. We know that he is going to die anyway.
Second, Enobarbus' betrayal and Antony's reaction to it.
Who’s gone this morning?
One ever near thee: call for Enobarbus,
He shall not hear thee; or from Caesar’s camp
Say ‘I am none of thine.’”
This betrayal must be a painful blow for Antony, since he counts Enobarbus as one of his closest friends. But Enobarbus doesn't hold the same high principles that Antony has in him. Antony at last feels the pain that Julius once experienced – being betrayed.
But he doesn't lose his temper. Instead he sends all Enobarbus' treasures back to him and even add more to it. Not just that, he even says that it is him that has changed Enobarbus for worse.
“Go, Eros, send his treasure after; do it;
Detain no jot, I charge thee: write to him —
I will subscribe — gentle adieus and greetings;
Say that I wish he never find more cause
To change a master. O, my fortunes have
Corrupted honest men! Dispatch. — Enobarbus!”
Now let's move to Octavius' camp. Octavius accepts Antony's ex-friends with hospitality, but pays not much trust to them. Talking about battle strategy, this is his plan:
“Go charge Agrippa
Plant those that have revolted in the van,
That Antony may seem to spend his fury
So it's not good at all for those who deserted Antony in his hour of need, eh? It's just natural for Caesar not to trust traitors. Who knows that nest time it is him they would betray when his luck runs short?
Enobarbus now starts to understand that it was a bad decision to leave Antony, and he feels guilty about it. His feeling of guilt and shame becomes even more immense when he finds out that Antony has given him back his riches, despite his treason. The traitor then kills himself just like Judas.
I don't understand Cleopatra. Putting Antony to the test, she asks her servant to tell Antony that she is dead. Antony, then, kills himself. What kind of drama is this? But the noble Antony never forgets the important things. He tells Cleopatra to seek peace with Octavius, and to get back her honour and safety. Then as befits a king, he says goodbye, telling Cleopatra not to grieve upon his death, because he dies honourably.
|Pompeo Batoni's painting depicting Antony's death|
“The miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at; but please your thoughts
In feeding them with those my former fortunes
Wherein I lived, the greatest prince o’ the world,
The noblest; and do now not basely die,
Not cowardly put off my helmet to
My countryman — a Roman by a Roman
Valiantly vanquish’d. Now my spirit is going;
I can no more.”
The story is nearing its end. What will happen between Octavius and Cleopatra then?