Antony and Cleopatra Act 5, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis
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At his camp, Octavius sends Dolabella to demand Antony’s surrender. But just then Dercetas comes from Antony, tells Octavius that Antony is dead, and pledges his allegiance to Octavius. Octavius remarks on the significance of this event, and Dercetas tells him that Antony killed himself. Octavius is saddened by the news, even though Antony was his enemy, and Agrippa and Maecenas agree that, while Antony had his faults, he was still an honorable man.
Octavius’ planned message is interrupted by the message of Dercetas. Despite the fact that Antony was his enemy, Octavius respects him as an honorable opponent, as do Maecenas and Agrippa.
An Egyptian enters bearing a message from Cleopatra. He tells Octavius that Cleopatra wishes to know his intentions with her, “that she preparedly may frame herself / To the way she’s forced to.” Octavius says that he will take mercy on Cleopatra, and sends the Egyptian away.
Cleopatra wishes to know Octavius’ intentions, so that she can plan her actions. It is unclear whether she will try to manipulate her way out of the situation, or will live up to her promise to Antony to end her own life as he did his.
Octavius tells his man Proculeius to go to Cleopatra and promise her comforts so that she does not commit suicide in her defeat. He wants to take her alive to Rome and show her in his public triumph (victory parade). He sends Gallus to go with Proculeius, and then tells the rest of his attendants to go with him to his tent, where he will show them his letters to Antony which he says prove “How hardly I was drawn into this war.”
Octavius now schemes to deceive Cleopatra. He wants to show his attendants the letters in order to prove that he was drawn into the war, and prove that he did not act dishonorably in waging civil war against another Roman.