Summary and Analysis
Act V: Scene 1
The final act opens at Caesar's camp in Alexandria. Dercetas enters with Antony's bloodied sword. Caesar is startled by the sight, and then Dercetas explains that this is the sword with which Antony killed himself. Caesar is affected by the irony of this moment, for while he fought hard for Antony's defeat or death, he is saddened by the fact that his rival is now dead, by his own hand. As he considers the tragedy of all that has happened, he speaks of Antony as being like his "brother," his "competitor," and his "mate in empire." Like many of Shakespeare's great characters, Caesar speaks of men's fates as being determined by the stars. His and Antony's fates, he says, were ultimately "reconcilable."
An Egyptian enters with a message from Cleopatra, asking for instructions from Caesar, the conqueror. Caesar promises kindness, and he sends Gallus and Proculeius to her with a message.
Caesar's response to Antony's death evokes a reassessment and a new recognition of Antony's good qualities, his courage and sense of honor, which perhaps finally outweigh his faults. In this scene, we also note the unusual tenor of Cleopatra's letter, since the previous scene informed us that she intended to follow Antony into death. Obviously, she is planning something. Shakespeare's heroine remains a scheme to the end.