Antony and Cleopatra By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act IV: Scene 1

Summary

At Caesar's camp outside Alexandria, Agrippa and Maecenas attend their general. He is reading an insulting letter from Antony, and after he finishes, he considers its contents. "He calls me boy," Caesar says, and he adds that Antony challenges him to "personal combat." Prudently, Caesar refuses to accept the challenge.

Maecenas advises Caesar to press forward in the battle while Antony is so obviously at a disadvantage. Caesar agrees, for not only is his army strong, but he has gained additional men who have deserted Antony's army.

Analysis

At this point, Shakespeare's vision of Caesar does not change; he will remain throughout the rest of the drama as a cool, calculating strategist. While Antony's defeat is a loss of honor to Antony, a matter to be resolved on the dueling field, to Caesar it is nothing more or less than the result of a battle. Caesar is irritated at Antony's slighting remarks, but unlike his foe, he does not let his emotions affect his judgment. There remains for him one single goal: total victory. In order to achieve this goal, he needs his army; wisely, he is not willing to gamble on his own prowess when he is convinced that his army can destroy Antony and his forces. It is far wiser strategy, he believes, to "laugh at [the] challenge . . . [of] the old ruffian."

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