Antony and Cleopatra (Paperback)
Mark Antony-one of the triumvirs of the Roman Republic, along with Octavius and Lepidus-has neglected his soldierly duties after being beguiled by Egypt's Queen, Cleopatra. He ignores Rome's domestic problems, including the fact that his third wife Fulvia rebelled against Octavius and then died.Octavius calls Antony back to Rome from Alexandria to help him fight against Sextus Pompey, Menecrates, and Menas, three notorious pirates of the Mediterranean. At Alexandria, Cleopatra begs Antony not to go, and though he repeatedly affirms his deep passionate love for her, he eventually leaves.The triumvirs meet in Rome, where Antony and Octavius put to rest, for now, their disagreements. Octavius' general, Agrippa, suggests that Antony should marry Octavius's sister, Octavia, in order to cement the friendly bond between the two men. Antony accepts. Antony's lieutenant Enobarbus, though, knows that Octavia can never satisfy him after Cleopatra. In a famous passage, he describes Cleopatra's charms: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety: other women cloy / The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry / Where most she satisfies."A soothsayer warns Antony that he is sure to lose if he ever tries to fight Octavius.In Egypt, Cleopatra learns of Antony's marriage to Octavia and takes furious revenge upon the messenger who brings her the news. She grows content only when her courtiers assure her that Octavia is homely: short, low-browed, round-faced and with bad hair.Before battle, the triumvirs parley with Sextus Pompey, and offer him a truce. He can retain Sicily and Sardinia, but he must help them "rid the sea of pirates" and send them tributes. After some hesitation, Sextus agrees. They engage in a drunken celebration on Sextus' galley, though the austere Octavius leaves early and sober from the party. Menas suggests to Sextus that he kill the three triumvirs and make himself ruler of the Roman Republic, but he refuses, finding it dishonourable. After Antony departs Rome for Athens, Octavius and Lepidus break their truce with Sextus and war against him. This is unapproved by Antony, and he is furious.