Antony and Cleopatra


William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra: Act 1, Scene 5 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Back in Egypt, Cleopatra asks Charmian to give her “mandragora,” a plant that will make her sleep until Antony returns. Charmian says that Cleopatra thinks about Antony too much. Cleopatra asks a eunuch named Mardian if he still feels “affections” and thinks about lust. He says he does.
Cleopatra seems obsessed with love and lust. When she is not thinking about Antony, she is inquiring about her eunuch’s capacity for erotic feelings.
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Cleopatra wonders where Antony is, and even envies his horse for getting to “bear the weight of Antony.” Cleopatra thinks of how she has enraptured former lovers with her beauty: Julius Caesar and one of the sons of Pompey the Great (a brother of Sextus Pompey). Alexas enters, bearing a pearl and a message from Antony.
Cleopatra continues to come across as erotically focused, if not obsessed, with the coarse joke about Antony’s horse. She has used her blunt female sexuality to insinuate herself into relationships with several powerful men, including the late Julius Caesar.
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Related Quotes
Alexas delivers Antony’s message: Antony promises to conquer lands for Cleopatra and get “all the East,” under her command. Cleopatra asks how Antony was when Alexas left him, and Alexas says he was neither sad nor happy. Cleopatra decides to send Antony a letter every day and calls for ink and paper. She says she loves Antony more than she loved Julius Caesar.
Antony’s profession of love reaches Cleopatra through an intermediary messenger. Antony’s love for Cleopatra now motivates his political aims, which are focused on the east, rather than Rome. Cleopatra finally seems to believe in Antony’s love.
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Charmian remembers Julius Caesar as “that brave Caesar!” but Cleopatra tells her to say “the brave Antony,” instead, and threatens her not to compare Antony to Caesar. She calls for ink and paper again, planning to write something to Antony every day that he is gone.
Cleopatra’s affair with Julius Caesar lingers in the background, potentially calling into question her love for Antony (is he merely her latest romantic conquest in an attempt to gain political power?), though Cleopatra appears here genuinely devoted to him.
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