Summary and Analysis
Act III: Scene 3
This scene returns us to Alexandria and provides us with some light comic relief as Cleopatra questions a messenger about Octavia. This is the same messenger whom she terrorized earlier when he told her about Antony's marriage. Now she is pleasant and ingratiating as she tries to find out what her new rival is like. After she questions the messenger about Octavia's manner and appearance, she is satisfied with the answers he gives her, and she pays him well for the good news.
Because of Cleopatra's earlier fury, it is quite understandable that this messenger would be wary of arousing the queen's ire. He is very careful to describe Octavia in such vague and neutral terms that Cleopatra can infer what she likes from them. And this she does: Cleopatra wants to be reassured, and so she interprets the messenger's words to suit herself. He says that Octavia is not tall; accordingly, Cleopatra assumes that Octavia is dwarfish, or dumpy. The messenger says that Octavia is "low-voiced," and Cleopatra interprets this as meaning that she is "dull of tongue." She then asks the messenger if there is "majesty in her gait," and he replies, "She creeps." Cleopatra is pleased by this description, and she compliments his "good judgment."