Back in Egypt, Cleopatra passes time with her attendants Charmian, Iras, and Alexas. She asks the eunuch Mardian to play billiards, but then thinks she’ll go fishing and pretend that every fish she catches is Antony, so that she can say, “Aha! You’re caught.”
Cleopatra passes her time in leisure, with games or idle chatter with her servants. Her comment about pretending that she is fishing for Antony suggests that she is manipulating him through their romantic relationship.
A messenger arrives from Italy, and Cleopatra fears that Antony is dead. The messenger tries to speak, but Cleopatra says that he does not look happy enough to be bringing good news, but he also does not look appropriate for announcing bad news. The messenger says that Antony is well and is friends with Octavius. He begins to say, “But yet,” and Cleopatra interrupts him, saying that this phrase suggests he will now tell her some bad news.
Cleopatra tries to guess what the messenger is going to say before he can even speak. One way or another, she continually disregards or ignores important messages. Antony’s and her disregard for messages and advice will later be one factor leading to their downfall.
The messenger is finally able to deliver his message: Antony has been married to Octavia. Cleopatra is furious, and beats the messenger. She tells him she will give him a province and money if he will say it is not true, but the messenger says it is true. Cleopatra takes out a knife and chases the messenger away.
Cleopatra sees Antony’s marriage as a betrayal, though she herself has often deceived him. She takes out all her anger on the messenger, who has done nothing wrong himself.
Charmian tells Cleopatra that it is not the messenger’s fault, and she calls for him to return. Cleopatra is still upset, and asks the messenger again if his news is true. He says it is. She sends him away, and says she is being punished for having betrayed Julius Caesar’s memory by praising Antony. She orders for Alexas to find out what Octavia looks like and report back to her.
After finally hearing the messenger out, Cleopatra worries that she is being punished for having betrayed the memory of her former lover, Julius Caesar. Given her history of romantic entanglements with powerful Roman men, the sincerity of her love for Antony is somewhat questionable.