Antony and Cleopatra By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act III: Scene 12

Summary

In his camp in Egypt, Caesar is meeting with some of his officers and also with Antony's ambassador, Euphronius. Euphronius presents Antony's requests to Caesar: Antony requests to be allowed to remain in Egypt, but if that is impossible, he asks that he at least be allowed to live as a private citizen in Athens. Euphronius also tells Caesar that Cleopatra acknowledges that Caesar is the victor and the supreme ruler of them all, but she requests that she be permitted to remain as queen of Egypt and to retain the crown of the Ptolemies, the Egyptian royal family, for her heirs.

Caesar ignores Antony's request and makes an offer to Cleopatra: if she will betray Antony and drive him from Egypt, or kill him there, then he might consider her requests. Caesar then orders his servant Thyreus to return to Cleopatra with Caesar's answer. He comments that women are no stronger than their own interests, and that, being a woman, Cleopatra can probably be bribed with the promise of her own safety in exchange for Antony's life.

Analysis

Caesar's own insecurity is revealed here by the harshness of his settlement. Certainly he has the right to demand Antony's life, but most Romans were known for being relatively generous to those whom they conquered. In this case, however, Caesar may be a more accurate judge of Antony's character than Antony was of Caesar's. Caesar knows, and rightly so, that he can never really feel safe as long as Antony is alive or free. Note, however, that Caesar is a very poor judge of Cleopatra's character. Since he can't see beyond the popular stereotype of her as being little more than a prostitute, he believes that she can easily be bought. This is not an unusual mistake for someone like Caesar to make; as far as we know, he does not really know what it is like to fall in love. Here, Caesar shows himself to be the complete soldier or strategist, not only in his ignorance about aspects of life not connected with war or politics, but also in the care he takes in his negotiations. He instructs Thyreus to be "cunning." Interestingly, Caesar is at his most "cunning" here, for he makes no firm promises to do anything at all for Cleopatra.

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