In Rome, Lepidus tells Enobarbus to try to get Antony to speak kindly to Octavius. Enobarbus says Antony will do as he pleases, and Lepidus tells him that, in the face of imminent danger, “small to greater matters must give way.” Enobarbus remains stubborn. Antony enters, and then Octavius enters with two friends, Maecenas and Agrippa.
Just as generals plan a battle, the various advisors to Antony and Octavius try to strategize for the two leaders’ meeting. They attempt to influence their leaders and get them to focus on the issue of Pompey, rather than getting distracted by their own differences.
Lepidus tries to mediate between Antony and Octavius, telling them to put aside their personal differences to deal with Pompey. Octavius is upset with Antony for spending so much time in Egypt and because his wife and brother made war against him. Antony says his brother never consulted him about the war, and that his wife had an impetuous spirit.
Octavius thinks Antony has betrayed him, because Antony’s wife warred against him. Antony insists that he had no part in Fulvia’s war, and has not been dishonorable toward Octavius. He apparently feels little loyalty to his deceased family members.
Octavius chastises Antony for ignoring the messages he sent to him. Antony says his messenger arrived just after a feast, and he talked to him the next morning. Octavius accuses Antony of violating his oath to lend him “arms and aid” in a time of need. Antony apologizes slightly, and asks for pardon for his wife. Maecenas tells Antony and Octavius to stop arguing so that they can deal with the threat of Pompey.
Octavius continues to accuse Antony of betraying not only him but also Rome more generally, by ignoring the messengers he sent to Egypt. Maecenas encourages both of them to focus on planning for the greater problem of Pompey’s rising power.
Enobarbus agrees, noting that they can take up their dispute again once Pompey is dealt with. Antony tells him to be quiet, and Enobarbus says he forgot “that truth should be silent.” Agrippa speaks up and suggests that, since Fulvia is now dead, Octavius’ sister Octavia could be married to Antony, in order to bind Octavius and Antony together as brothers. Octavius and Antony agree to the plan.
Antony is too prideful to heed the good advice of Enobarbus. Agrippa’s suggestion of a strategic marriage between Octavia and Antony is a proposal to create a marriage that has little to do with love (or lust, for that matter). He sees the female Octavia as a pawn in a political game of chess.
Antony, Lepidus, and Octavius now turn their attention to Pompey, who is at Mount Misena, south of Rome. Before preparing their forces, though, Antony and Octavius go to see Octavia, to conclude the business of the marriage. Lepidus leaves with them. Maecenas, Enobarbus, and Agrippa are glad that Octavius and Antony appear to have resolved their dispute. Enobarbus tells them about how he and Antony slept all day and drank all night in Egypt.
Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus approach the matter of marrying Antony and Octavia in the same strategic, manipulative way that they approach fighting Pompey. Enobarbus emphasizes the extreme decadence of Antony’s life in Egypt, highlighting the difference between eastern luxury and the austerity of Rome.
Enobarbus tells Agrippa and Maecenas about Cleopatra, who has a huge barge “like a burnished throne,” made of gold with silver oars. He describes Cleopatra’s beauty and says she was surrounded by “pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,” and female attendants like mermaids. He says her boat gives off “a strange invisible perfume.”
Everything about Cleopatra, from her absurdly extravagant barge to her Cupid-esque servants, suggests an obsession with luxury, pleasure, and decadence.
Enobarbus says that when Antony first saw Cleopatra, he invited her to dinner. She declined, though, and invited him to be her guest at dinner. Enobarbus says they slept together and Cleopatra bore Antony a child. Maecenas praises Octavia’s beauty and wisdom, but Enobarbus doubts that Antony will ever really leave Cleopatra. He says that “other women cloy / The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry / Where most she satisfies.”
Enobarbus describes Cleopatra’s love as addictive and therefore dangerous: it only makes Antony want more of it. Cleopatra is a strong woman, as shown by her first interaction with Antony, when she makes him her dinner guest, rather than vice versa.