Pompey, Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus meet to try to come to a truce before fighting. Pompey speaks of the death of Julius Caesar, and says that he is fighting in order to avenge his father, Pompey the Great. Lepidus asks Pompey what he thinks about the terms of peace they have offered.
The four men are essentially divvying up power over all of the Mediterranean world. Both sides think that they are fighting for honorable causes, Pompey on behalf of his deceased father.
Pompey accepts their offer: he will have control of the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, provided that he clear the sea of pirates and send some wheat to Rome. The men clasp hands, agreeing to the truce, and Pompey says that they should feast together. Pompey tells Antony about some rumors he has heard of Egypt, and alludes to Cleopatra’s relationship with Julius Caesar.
The leaders are able to agree to satisfactory terms that prevent (for now) outright war and divide power over Rome’s territories. Having settled their serious business, they now balance work with a luxurious feast, in contrast to Antony’s complete indulgence in pleasure in Egypt.
Pompey invites everyone aboard his boat, and everyone but Enobarbus and Menas leaves. The two men compliment each other on their military service, one for Antony and the other for Pompey. They agree that “there is never a fair woman has a true face,” and that women “steal hearts.” Menas asks if Antony and Cleopatra are married, and Enobarbus says Antony is actually married to Octavia.
Enobarbus and Menas agree in their misogynistic assumptions about women. At this point in the play, their opinions could be applicable to the character of Cleopatra, but her noble death will later call into question any understanding of her as simply or purely deceptive.
Menas says that this marriage will unite Octavius and Antony, but Enobarbus says he is not so sure. He thinks Antony will choose Cleopatra over Octavia, and this will upset Octavius. Menas and Enobarbus leave together to join the feast with Pompey, Lepidus, Antony, and Octavius.
The marriage is regarded purely as a strategic move—one that Menas thinks will work well. Enobarbus, however, knows the seductive power of Cleopatra’s attractions for Antony.