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Lives and letters in Antony and Cleopatra.

WHEN OCTAVIUS CAESAR receives the news of Antony's suicide, at the end of act 5, scene 1 of Antony and Cleopatra, he invites his Council of War to
 Go with me to my Tent, where you shall see
 How hardly I was drawne into this Warre,
 How calme and gentle I proceeded still
 In all my Writings. Go with me, and see
 What I can shew in this.

(5.1.73-77) (1)

Octavius is anxious to furnish textual evidence that will support his account of his "calme and gentle" actions toward Antony and his reluctant entry into war against him. He is not alone in valuing how he will be viewed by posterity. Antony applauds the "Noblenesse in Record" (4.14.100) that suicide brings, and Cleopatra famously frets lest Rome's "quicke Comedians / Extemporally will stage vs," and, while still alive, she will be forced to witness "Some squeaking Cleopatra Boy my greatnesse / I'th' posture of a Whore" (5.2.215-16, 219-20). W. B. Worthen notes that "Antony and Cleopatra is, of course, centrally concerned with how events are written into narrative, transformed into history, literature, and myth"; (2) C. C. Barfoot has suggested that "the chief protagonists in Antony and Cleopatra are above all committed to fulfilling the destiny of their names," acutely aware "of how the future will regard them when they are entirely in the past"; (3) indeed, as Garrett Sullivan sums up, Antony and Cleopatra is "a play dominated by the retrospective characterization of people and events." (4)

In an important essay, Linda Charnes has demonstrated how, de spite their shared concern for posterity, the characters' approaches to posthumous reputation--and their success in achieving it--vary widely. While noting that "all the 'actors' in this play are obsessed with playing to reviewers near and far," she argues that "they are not equally in control of the effects of their performances" since Rome is "the play's 'original' center of the narrative imperative, of the incitement to discourse that drives imperialist historiography." In her reading the play "represents the ultimate triumph of Octavius, who will later sculpt himself into the Augustus of Virgil, Horace, and Ovid," writers who had a profound influence on Renaissance readers such as Shakespeare. Not only did he have "a monumental machinery of language at his disposal," but "[a]s Augustus Caesar, Octavius was to become chief executive of a massive discursive empire, the productions of which would be referred to again and again, from Dante to Pope, as models of literary, moral, and historical 'authority.'" (5)

The historical Octavius certainly provided for posterity, not only through his patronage of great writers, but also by leaving to the safekeeping of the Vestal Virgins "a catalogue of his achievements which he wished to be inscribed on bronze tablets and set up in front of his mausoleum"; in the sixteenth century, a copy of this text was found inscribed in the temple of Rome and Augustus in Ancyra in Galatia (modern Ankara), and fragments of the text were later found in Apollonia and Antioch in Pisidia, testifying to the emperor's success in disseminating his version of his life. (6) This emphasis on documentary culture chimes with the portrait of Octavius given in one of Shakespeare's sources, Sir Thomas North's Englishing of "The Life of Octavius Caesar Augustus" by the French Calvinist Simon Goulart (included in the 1603 edition of Plutarch's Lives). Goulart depicts Octavius as "learned in the liberall sciences, very eloquent, and desirous to learne," a bookworm for whom reading is a favorite and enthralling pursuit. Delighting in the great authors, he would plunder their works for "sentences teaching good maners," and "having written them out word by word, he gave out a copy of them to his familiars: and sent them about to the governours of provinces, and to the magistrates of ROME and of other cities." He was, Goulart reveals, "not curious to set himselfe out, as little caring to be shauen, as to weare long haire: and in stead of a looking-glasse, reading in his booke, or writing, even whilest the Barber was trimming of him." Even "in the middest of all his infinite affairs" while at war, "he did reade, he wrote, and made orations amongst his familiars." This was no sprezzatura performance, but a painstakingly careful and prepared campaign. Although he "had speech at commaundement, to propound or answer to any thing in the field," Octavius "never spake unto the Senate nor people, nor to his souldiers, but he had first written and premeditated that he would say unto them." In order not to "deceive his memory, or lose time in superfluous speech," the emperor "determined ever to write all that he would say" (Goulart claims he was "the first inventer" of this habit). No matter to whom he was talking--even his wife--"he would put that downe in his writing tables, because he would speake neither more nor lesse." (7)

For Shakespeare's Octavius similarly, the image he will present to posterity lies in "all my Writings." Charnes's account assumes a triumphalist narrative not only of Octavius's imperialism, but of the Renaissance humanist claims for the continuing dominance of Roman textual achievements. But, as I shall argue, the play's attitude to such a narrative is by no means secure: (8) while Charnes's argument may be a valid claim for the lasting success of Octavius's version of historiography into the Renaissance, it fails to address the complexities of the characters' multifarious bids for posterity in Antony and Cleopatra. To return to the specific incident of inviting his officers into his tent to view his writings: this moment, surely a crucial point in Octavius's propaganda campaign, (9) is taken directly from Plutarch's life of Antony:
 Caesar [i.e., Octavius] hearing these newes [of Antony's death],
 straight withdrewe himselfe into a secret place of his tent, and
 there burst out with teares, lamenting his hard and miserable
 fortune, that had bene his friend and brother in law, his equall in
 the Empire, and companion with him in sundry great exploits and
 battels. Then he called for all his friends, and shewed them the
 letters Antonius had written to him, and his answers also sent him
 againe, during their quarrell and strife: and how fiercely and
 proudly the other answered him, to all just and reasonable matters
 he wrote unto him. (10)

But the play's adaptation of this passage seriously weakens the force of Octavius's appeal to his writings. Plutarch tells how Octavius produces "the letters Antonius had written to him," as well as "his answers also sent him againe," and depicts an ongoing, responsible epistolary exchange, as Antonius "fiercely and proudly ... answered ... all just and reasonable matters [Octavius] wrote unto him." In the play, however, we are promised only "all my Writings," only one side of a supposed correspondence. Moreover, on hearing the news, Shakespeare's Octavius does not retire to his tent to weep, but instead launches into his eulogy for Antony, only to interrupt himself:
 Heare me good Friends,
 But I will tell you at some meeter Season,
 The businesse of this man lookes out of him,
 Wee'l heare him what he sayes.


The interruption, "this man," turns out to be an "Aegyptian," his "businesse," a message from Cleopatra. Octavius sends the man back with assurances that he will not be "ungentle" to his prisoner (5.1.60), but is struck with the idea that Cleopatra might kill herself and sends Proculeius, Gallus, and Dolabella to prevent it; (11) only then does he issue his invitation to view his "Writings." The effect of this interruption is twofold: first, it hints at the likelihood of Cleopatra's suicide in the following scene; and second, it ensures--as Octavius dispatches his men on various missions--that the writings are presented to a sadly depleted Council, probably only numbering two, Agrippa and Maecenas. It betrays the fact that Octavius' letters are going to mean little to posterity compared with the iconic act of Cleopatra's suicide.

As I shall argue, this incident is just one of a series of moments when Octavius's textual bid for history is pitted against a non-textual bid by Cleopatra. Far from leading to Octavius's posthumous dominance, Antony and Cleopatra consistently challenges the grounds on which Roman historiography is to be built--Octavius's "Writings," his letters--and, in so doing, offers a different, and determinedly theatrical, challenge to the sway of Roman epistolary historiography.

It is, of course, a commonplace to read Antony and Cleopatra as a confrontation between two civilizations, west and east, Rome and Egypt, Caesar and Cleopatra. (12) In the words of John F. Danby, Shakespeare is writing "the vast containing opposites of Rome and Egypt, the World and the Flesh," (13) or as Maurice Charney puts it, "Rome and Egypt represent crucial moral choices, and they function as symbolic locales in a manner not unlike Henry James's Europe and America." (14) The play's imagery pits Rome against Egypt relentlessly: cold versus hot, rigour versus luxury, scarcity versus bounty, masculine versus feminine, political versus domestic, rational versus irrational, Attic versus Asiatic, virtus versus voluptas. (15) Rome takes a passive role in this battle of binaries, often suggested as the negative of Egypt, rather than being fully portrayed in its own right: Rome is not, simply because Egypt is, a place of pleasure, sensuality, sex, appetite, shifting moods, sudden violence, infinite--and destabilizing--variety. In these readings, Antony is torn between the two: though Roman-born, he is easily swayed by Egyptian pleasures--Danby memorably summarizes his choice as between "soldiering for a cynical Rome or whoring on furlough in reckless Egypt." (16) Recent criticism has successfully complicated this binary model, while still preserving its basic terms: we now see the Rome in Egypt and the Egypt in Rome, their complementarity, the specularity of the two cultures, the complex ways in which we are led to see one through the eyes of the other. (17) But an examination of the modes of communication used by the two cultures--letters, messages, messengers, the kinds of communication that by their very nature have to work across those cultures--provides us with a way of understanding not only the differences between Egypt and Rome, but also their points of contact, practical and ideological. (18) Antony and Cleopatra is a play overrun with messages and messengers, (19) and necessarily so. With its action spread across two continents, disparate events have to be reported, verbally or by letter, in order to provoke a response; its characters spend much of the play recounting, hearing of, and commenting on what has happened elsewhere. While scholars have commented on this abundance and the effect of reportage they produce, (20) the play's various letters--the letters that Octavius evokes to prove his historiographic case--have yet to be scrutinized in any detail.

Rome's power is built on its use of letters, its geographically vast empire controlled by an epistolary network. (21) Messages from Rome arrive in letter form. In Alexandria, Antony receives letters containing the details of Fulvia's death in Sicyon (1.2.123-28); he is petitioned by "the Letters too / Of many our contriving Friends in Rome" (1.2.188-90). Silius asks Ventidius if "thou wilt write to Anthony' (3.1.30). Rather than mere verbal agreements, Rome insists on written, sealed contracts: we see Pompey asking that "our composi[ti]on may be written / And seal'd betweene vs" (2.6.58-59), and Enobarbus reports of Pompey's collaborators that "The other three are Sealing" (3.2.3). This Roman empire is epitomized by Octavius Caesar, significantly first encountered by the audience in the act of "reading a Letter" from Alexandria (1.4.0, SD), an entrance motif that is repeated later (4.1.0, SD). He sees letters as documentary evidence, orally paraphrasing to Lepidus "the newes ... From Alexandria" (1.4.3-4) but then offering the letter containing the news in support of what he says: "You / Shall finde there a man, who is th' abstracts of all faults, / That all men follow" (1.4.8-10). (22) He uses letters to control: in planning the sea battle, he commands Taurus with written instructions: "Do not exceede / The Prescript of this Scroule" (3.8.4-5). He has respect for petitions submitted in letter form: in temporarily holding back an assault against Antony, he tells his sister Octavia that it was "your Letters did with-holde our breaking forth" (3.6.81). And, as befits a man with such investment in letters, he shows himself to be hyperefficient in matters epistolary. When he recites to Agrippa Antony's charges against him, Agrippa urges "Sir, this should be answer'd," but Octavius is a step ahead: "'Tis done already, and the Messenger gone" (3.6.31-32). He sees letters as evidence: when he turns on Lepidus, after their joint victory against Pompey, he "accuses him of Letters he had formerly wrote to Pompey" (3.5.9). (23) Material gains from war can be "Put ... i'th'roll of Conquest" (5.2.180); even physical injuries take on a textual form, as he reassures his prisoner Cleopatra that "The Record of what injuries you did vs, / Though written in our flesh, we shall remember / As things but done by chance" (5.2.117-19).

Against Rome's literate culture, Egypt is presented as predominantly oral--a choice that seems to be the playwright's, rather than an effect of dominant opinion. Indeed, discourses about Egypt circulating in the early modern period, recently surveyed by John Michael Archer, point to the respect paid to Egypt as an early, if not originary, civilization in the development of writing. (24) Philemon Holland, writing in 1603, provides a typical summation: "The wisdome and learning of the Aegyptians hath bene much recommended unto us by ancient writers, and not without good cause: considering that Aegypt hath bene the source and fountaine from whence have flowed into the world arts and liberall sciences, as a man may gather by the testimony of the first Poets and philosophers that ever were." (25)

Shakespeare's Cleopatra, however, is seen to prefer spoken messages to letters. For the queen, news arrives in bodily form, moving violently from the throat to the ear: "Ramme thou thy fruitefull tidings in mine eares" (2.5.24); "Powre out the packe of matter to mine eare" (2.5.54). She refuses to hear that Antony is dead: "If thou say so Villaine, thou kil'st thy Mistris" (2.5.26-27), "The Gold I give thee, will I melt and powr / Downe thy ill vttering throate" (2.5.34-35). The messenger pleads to be heard: "Good Madam heare me ... Wilt please you heare me?" (2.5.35, 41). By contrast to the Roman emphasis on written and sealed contracts, for Cleopatra (as Antony acknowledges) a "Kingly Seale, / And plighter of high hearts" is not made of wax and affixed to a letter, but "My play-fellow, your hand" (3.13.130-31).

Cleopatra's understanding of news in bodily terms renders her incapable of distinguishing the message from its physical vessel, the messenger. When news arrives of Antony's marriage to Octavia, she lectures the messenger:
 Though it be honest, it is never good
 To bring bad newes: give to a gratious Message
 An host of tongues, but let ill tydings tell
 Themselves, when they be felt.


Her analysis is borne out by her behavior, as the messenger bears the brunt of her anger at the message he bears. Even before he makes the announcement, Cleopatra has said that his reward will depend on the news he brings:
 I have a mind to strike thee ere thou speak'st:
 Yet if thou say Anthony lives, 'tis well,
 Or friends with Caesar, or not Captive to him,
 Ile set thee in a shower of Gold, and haile
 Rich Pearles upon thee.


Ultimately, of course, she "Strikes him downe" (2.5.61, SD) calling down "The most infectious Pestilence upon thee" (2.5.61); she "Strikes him" (2.5.62, SD) again, and "hales him vp and downe" (2.5.64, SD), claiming she'll "spume thine eyes ! Like balls before me: Ile vnhaire thy head, / Thou shalt be whipt with Wyer, and stew'd in brine, / Smarting in lingring pickle" (2.5.63-66). Finally she "Draw[s] a knife" (2.5.73, SD) and the messenger flees. "Gratious Madam," he claims, "I that do bring the newes, made not the match. / ... What meane you Madam, I have made no fault" (2.5.66-67, 74). But for Cleopatra, there is no distinction: he is not merely the carrier of written news, but the embodiment of the news itself.

Although this binary of literate, letter-bound Rome versus oral, physical Egypt is attractive, strictly dichotomous models of message-bearing are, perforce, impossible to sustain, since the carrying of messages is by its nature transactive, moving not only within a single culture, but across the play's two cultures. So Cleopatra is shown as literate: when Antony leaves her, she proves her love by twice calling for her writing implements: "Inke and paper Charmian.... Get me Inke and Paper, / he shall haue euery day a seuerall greeting, or Ile vnpeople Egypt" (1.5.68, 79-81). Once separated geographically, Egypt seems to engage in "Roman" letter writing. But, despite her intentions, there is nothing in the text to suggest that Cleopatra ever does write a letter. She certainly sends an army of messengers to her beloved, asking Alexas "Met'st thou my Posts?" "I Madam," he answers, "twenty seuerall Messengers. / Why do you send so thicke?" (1.5.64-6). (26) The queen replies portentously "Who's borne that day, when I forget to send to Anthonie, shall dye a Begger" (1.5.66-68). Later, having beaten Antony's messenger, Cleopatra again appears to resort to letter writing. Plying the hapless messenger with gold, she informs him that
 I will employ thee backe againe: I finde thee
 Most fit for businesse. Go, make thee ready,
 Our Letters are prepar'd.


But it turns out that in fact the letters are not prepared--or at least that Cleopatra is not finished with them. Within ten lines, she announces that she has "one thing more to aske him yet good Charmian: but 'tis no matter, thou shalt bring him to me where I will write; all may be well enough" (3.3.44-46). Even in her final moments, when she produces for Caesar "the breefe: of Money, Plate, & Iewels / I am possest of," assuring him "'tis exactly valewed, / Not petty things admitted" (5.2.137-39), it turns out to be incomplete, and even her treasurer will not endorse it. These incidents show Cleopatra equipped with the understanding and skills to enter into the Roman epistolary world, but temperamentally unsuited to it, refusing to respect its rules.

Antony, as one might expect, is depicted as torn between these two cultures. In Plutarch's account, Antony, in common with every other major political player of his day, is involved in extensive epistolary correspondence, and his affair with Cleopatra is kept afloat during lengthy periods of separation through letters, sometimes to his detriment: Antony is specifically charged "That diuerse times sitting in his tribunall and chaire of state, gluing audience to all Kings and Princes: he had receiued loue letters from Cleopatra, written in tables of Onyx or Christall, & that he had red them, sitting in his Imperiall seat." (27) It's a great image, but one that Shakespeare chooses not to use: his Antony does not read love letters. In other early modern accounts, by contrast, Antony makes good use of letters. Samuel Brandon's dramatization of his relationship with Octavia hinges on the fact that Antony halts Octavia's journey to him at Athens by sending her letters; Brandon even composed a fictional pair of letters between husband and wife on this emotionally fraught occasion, while Samuel Daniel similarly confected "A Letter sent from Octauia to her husband Marcus Antonius into Egypt." (28)

In the play, however, when in Cleopatra's company, Antony is seen to opt out of, if not refuse completely, his native Roman letter-writing culture. Octavius complains to Antony that "I wrote to you, when rioting in Alexandria you / Did pocket vp my Letters: and with taunts / Did gibe my Misiue out of audience" (2.2.76-79). Although Antony weakly objects that Octavius's messenger had violated protocol by entering without being properly admitted, (29) Octavius's anger is warranted: Antony publicly humiliated his messenger (and therefore Octavius himself), and was seen to "pocket vp" the letters instead of affording them his attention. Antony's decline from Roman etiquette is measured by his performance in diplomatic relations with Caesar. He decides to send "our Schoolemaster" (3.11.72) as an ambassador, a choice that Dolabella correctly interprets as "An argument that he is pluckt, when hither / He sends so poore a Pinnion of his Wing, / Which had superfluous Kings for Messengers, / Not many Moones gone by" (3.12.3-6) The schoolmaster-ambassador himself expresses amazement and shame at his appointment: "Such as I am, I come from Anthony: / I was of late as petty to his ends, / As is the Morne-dew on the Mettle leafe / To his grand Sea" (3.12.7-10). As an ambassador, he is shockingly incompetent, presenting a verbal petition and then immediately, in the same sentence, assuming it will not be granted: Antony "Requires to liue in Egypt, which not granted / He

Lessons his Requests" (3.12.12-13). It is only when the schoolmaster has returned with Caesar's denials that Antony returns to writing letters, as he challenges Caesar (for the second time) to single combat:
 I dare him therefore
 To lay his gay Comparisons a-part,
 And answer me declin'd, Sword against Sword,
 Our selues alone: Ile write it:


Presumably this is the letter that Caesar is shown reading at the beginning of act 4 ("Enter Caesar, Agrippa, & Mecenas with his Army, Caesar reading a Letter" [4.1.0, SD]), as he complains
 He calles me Boy, and chides as he had power
 To beate me out of Egypt. My Messenger
 He hath whipt with Rods, dares me to personal Combat.
 Caesar to Anthony.


Antony has by this point fallen away from epistolary protocols, allowing his prejudice against Octavius's youth to find its way into a letter (which Octavius characteristically sees as evidence), as well as physically abusing his letter-bearer.

But this anti-Roman attitude is by no means consistent. Although enthralled by Cleopatra, Antony necessarily remains part of the Roman epistolary world. As we have seen, he receives news of his wife Fulvia's death by letter, and petitions from his friends in Rome to return home. After his defeat at sea, Antony dismisses his attendants, but uses letters to recommend them to posts elsewhere:
 Friends be gone, you shall
 Haue Letters from me to some Friends, that will
 Sweepe your way for you.


It is revealed in passing that Antony is in correspondence with Octavius: when challenged that he was complicit with attacks against Octavius by his brother and wife, Antony points out that "Of this, my Letters / Before did satisfie you" (2.2.56-57).

Rome and Egypt, then, can be seen to have different attitudes to the bearing of messages, Rome fixating on written epistolary documentation, Egypt preferring the personally conveyed oral message, although both civilizations are capable--perhaps through necessity--of drawing on the other's techniques. In terms of the posterity of historiography, Rome might seem to have the upper hand here, its messages preservable in written form while Egypt's are by their nature transient. But this notion is not allowed to pass unchallenged. In the figure of Antony--the Roman in Egypt, ostensibly rejecting but often complicit in the culture of Roman letters--we are presented with an uncertain resistance to Roman historiography, focused on his claim to be a Roman, at the moment of his death.

In Antony's final words he paints a self-portrait of how he should be remembered:
 The miserable change now at my end,
 Lament nor sorrow at: but please your thoughts
 In feeding them with those my former Fortunes
 Wherein I liued. The greatest Prince o'th' world,
 The Noblest: and do now not basely dye,
 Not Cowardly put off my Helmet to
 My Countreyman. A Roman, by a Roman
 Valiantly vanquish'd. Now my Spirit is going,
 I can no more.


According to Antony, he did not submit to a fellow "Countreyman," but was "Valiantly vanquished," in the only way a Roman should be, by an equal, a Roman. The "Countreyman" must be Octavius Caesar, whose control he has escaped, since the two Romans are both Antony, vanquisher and vanquished--he has already claimed that "Not Caesars Valour hath o'rethrowne Anthony, / But Anthonie's hath Triumpht on it selfe," and Cleopatra has confirmed approvingly that "none but Anthony should conquer Anthony" (4.15.15-18). Self-killing is, of course, understood by the Renaissance as the classic Roman gesture of courage, (30) and as he contemplates the act in a rare soliloquy, Antony is drawn, uncharacteristically, to a Roman image of contract: "Seale then, and all is done" (4.14.50). Yet this confident assertion is belied by what the audience has seen--Antony first asking his servant to kill him, then witnessing that servant bravely kill himself rather than execute his master, then botching his own suicide, before vainly pleading with his guards to finish the job, and finally being hauled up to his deathbed by (foreign) women. And there is something very wrong with this sentence: who is Antony's "Countreyman" if not a Roman? If the countryman is not a Roman, then what is Antony?

The first official report of Antony's demise, given by Decretas to Octavius explains that he died,
 Not by a publike minister of Iustice,
 Nor by a hyred Knife, but that selfe-hand
 Which writ his Honor in the Acts it did,
 Hath with the Courage which the heart did lend it,
 Splitted the heart.


The awkward reference to Antony's "selfe-hand" might alert us to a problem. Hands are prominently portrayed throughout the play, shaken, kissed, read by a soothsayer. (31) But the lovers show a surprising lack of control over their own hands. When Antony exclaims, "[Cleopatra] hath betraid me, And shall dye the death," Mardian replies, "Death of one person, can be paide but once, / And that she ha's discharg'd. What thou would'st do / Is done vnto thy hand" (4.14.26-29). The phrasing here is odd, but telling: Mardian means that the action Antony would do (raise his hand to kill Cleopatra) has already been done; but in so doing, the act has been done "vnto thy hand," almost as if an attack on his hand. When Cleopatra goes to stab herself, she exclaims, "Quicke, quicke, good hands" (5.2.38), but Caesar's man Proculeius is too fast, and disarms her. And, in this case too, the hand is not under Antony's control: although Decretas talks of "that selfe-hand / Which writ his Honor," the audience already knows that Antony's first impulse is to use someone else's hand to do the deed: the hand of Eros.

Antony's confident assertion that he is "A Roman, by a Roman / Valiantly vanquish'd," and Decretas's report that he was killed by "that selfe-hand / Which writ his Honor in the Acts it did," need to be tempered by the knowledge of his call on Eros: to what extent is Antony really vanquished by a Roman, or by his self-hand? Significantly, even before his suicide, Antony's sense of a discrete self is already shaken: indeed, the scene opens with him asking his servant Eros the bewildering question "Eros, thou yet behold'st me?" (4.14.1). Although Eros answers in the affirmative, Antony objects that, as when we see clouds that bear a certain shape, "now thy Captaine is / Euen such a body: Heere I am Anthony, / Yet cannot hold this visible shape (my Knaue)" (4.14.12-14) as a result of Cleopatra's betrayal. In his mind, Antony cannot be seen, yet Eros assures him that he can see Antony: Eros's sight is required in order for Antony to be visible. Antony has some comfort for his servant:
 Nay, weepe not gentle Eros, there is left vs
 Our selues to end our selues.


Antony's meaning, as will soon become explicit, is that he will end his own life. But his phrasing, using the plural form "Our," suggests something else: that it will take both of them to kill themselves. Antony's death then is not at the hand of Antony, but at the combined hand of Antony and Eros; his "selfe-hand" is not his own, but theirs jointly.

If Antony's "selfe-hand" is not his own, to what extent is he killed by a Roman? There is another element to Eros that urges us to question this. The incident appears, at first sight, to be taken directly from Plutarch:
 Now he had a man of his called Eros, whom he loued and trusted
 much, and whom he had long before caused to sweare vnto him, that
 he should kill him when he did command him: and then he willed him
 to keepe his promise. His man drawing his sword, lift it vp as
 though he had meant to haue striken his master: but turning his
 head at one side, he thrust his sword into himself, and fell downe
 dead at his maisters foote. Then said Antonius: o noble Eros, I
 thanke thee for this, and it is valiantly done of thee, to shew me
 what I should do to my selfe, which thou couldest not do for me.
 Therewithall he tooke his sword, and thrust it into his belly, and
 so fell downe vpon a litle bed. (32)

However, as Leeds Barroll has demonstrated so convincingly, (33) in creating the man whom Antony asks to kill him, Shakespeare goes beyond Plutarch's account. Rather than the vagueness of the "long before ... promise," whereby Eros inexplicably agreed to kill Antony if required, Shakespeare has Antony recalling a specific moment--"When I did make thee free, swor'st thou not then / To do this when I bad thee?" (4.14.82-83)--that makes Eros a freedman, an enfranchised slave.

Where does this notion of Eros as a freedman come from? Thomas North's translation describes him merely as "a man of his," while Jacques Amyot's French makes him "vn sien seruiteur." (34) In other late Elizabethan adaptations of the moment, Mary, Countess of Pembroke seems to follow North in referring to "Eros his man" in her closet verse drama Tragedie of Anthonie (1592); (35) the original of her translation, Robert Garnier's M. Antoine, Tragedie (1578), follows Amyot in using "Eros son seruiteur." (36) These epithets--"his man" and "his servant" (serviteur)--certainly seem to be standard for Eros: we might add contemporary allusions by Sir Richard Barckley in his 1598 A Discovrse of the Felicitie of Man to "his man Eros"; (37) and Robert Allott, in his 1599 Wits Theater of the little World, where Eros is described as "the seruant of Antonius." (38) (Another variant from the Herbert circle, Samuel Brandon's 1598 The Tragicomoedi of the vertuous Octauia omits Eros.) (39) Plutarch's Greek, however, has something very different: Eros as "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]"--a trusted household slave of his, and emphatically not an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], one of his "infranchised bondmen." Shakespeare's Eros is thus notably different from other contemporary versions of story--but why? Barroll's inquiry is undertaken in the cause of dating the play, largely in relation to the 1607 revision of Samuel Daniel's closet drama Cleopatra--Daniel also makes Eros "his late infranchis'd seruant," suggesting he may have seen or read Shakespeare's play. (40) But what does it mean that Eros should be an enfranchised slave? A freedman was never fully flee, but bound to the conditions of the freedman's oath (iusirandum liberti), by which the freedman might perform certain operae or services, perhaps a weekly ration of domestic or skilled labor, or working as a generalized procurator, managing the master's affairs. (41) But beyond this, the operae might include certain specific tasks--and it is this arrangement to which Antony refers.

In rendering Eros a freedman, Shakespeare draws (as Barroll suggests) not only on Plutarch's Eros but also on other characters in Plutarch's Lives. The first is Rhamnus, another servant to whom Antony turned in a low moment during the Parthian campaign: "Antonius called for one Rhamnus, one of his slaues infranchised that was of his guard, and made him giue him his faith that he would thrust his sword through him when he would bid him, and cut off his head, because he might not be taken aliue of his enemies, nor knowne when he were dead." (42) This identification of Rhamnus with Eros is strengthened by the fact that Antony urges Eros to "Draw that thy honest Sword, which thou hast worne / Most vsefull for thy Country" (4.14.80-81), implying that Eros has been a soldier, and that Eros himself alludes to the Parthian campaign in this final scene: "Shall I do that which all the Parthian Darts, / (Though Enemy) lost ayme, and could not" (4.14.71-72). (43) In Barroll's argument, Shakespeare's Eros "has in effect taken on the characteristics of Plutarch's suicide helper B--Rhamnus from the Plutarchan Parthian expedition ... And the manumission (from Plutarch's Rhamnus) has become so significant in Shakespeare that it is part of the structure of Antony's effort to persuade Eros--a persuasion, indeed, telling enough to force Eros either to honor Antony's plea or to kill himself to avoid the debt." (44)

Second, Eros recalls the man who slays Cassius "at his earnest request ... a faithfull seruant of his owne called Pindarus, whom he had infranchised." (45) Elsewhere, Plutarch elaborates that Pindarus was "one of his freed bondmen, whom he reserued euer for such a pinch, since the cursed battell of the PARTHIANS"; Pindarus decapitates Cassius as ordered, "but after that time Pindarus was neuer seene more. Whereupon, some tooke occasion to say that he had slaine his maister without his commaundement." (46) In dramatizing this incident in Julius Caesar, as Barroll notes "Shakespeare altered this sequence," (47) making the enfranchisement a delayed reward contingent on the killing:
 In Parthia did I take thee Prisoner,
 And then I swore thee, sauing of thy life,
 That whatsoeuer I did bid thee do,
 Thou should'st attempt it. Come now, keepe thine oath,
 Now be a Free-man, and with this good Sword
 That ran through Caesars bowels, search this bosome.


Having performed the act, Pindarus meditates on his fate: "So, I am free, / Yet would not so haue beene / Durst I haue done my will," and decides to go into exile "Where neuer Roman shall take note of him" (5.3.47-50). The Cassius-Pindarus narrative, with its coercive promises and its shameful outcome, makes clear the dangerous bargain that is involved in this claim on the freedman, a bargain repeated in the Antony-Eros encounter. As Antony notes,
 When I did make thee free, swor'st thou not then
 To do this when I bad thee? Do it at once,
 Or thy precedent Seruices are all
 But accidents vnpurpos'd.


Antony claims that unless Eros obeys, his previous operae are rendered redundant, the terms of his freedom violated.

In both cases, the bargaining of Cassius and Antony belies the supposed freedom of their erstwhile slaves as, despite their enfranchisement, Pindarus and Rhamnus--and, it follows, therefore Eros--are shown to be still committed to certain formidable duties for their masters. Elsewhere, Antony has invoked another freedman over whom he exerts control. After beating him, he tells Caesar's messenger Thidias to
 Get thee backe to Caesar,
 Tell him thy entertainment: looke thou say
 He makes me angry with him. For he seemes
 Proud and disdainfull, harping on what I am,
 Not what he knew I was....

 If he mislike,
 My speech, and what is done, tell him he has
 Hiparchus, my enfranched Bondman, whom
 He may at pleasure whip, or hang, or torture,
 As he shall like to quit me. (48)

(3.13.144-48, 152-56)

This Hipparchus is introduced by Plutarch as "the first of all his infranchised bondmen that reuolted from him, and yeelded vnto Caesar, and afterwards went and dwelt at CORINTH." (49) It is clear from Antony's speech, however, that he still recognizes Hipparchus as his own to punish, despite his doubly removed status--freed from bondage and then revolted from Antony's mastery. This notion, thus insistently made, that manumission does not fully free an ex-slave, is betrayed in Samuel Daniel's 1607 revision of his Cleopatra, which critics have seen as drawing on Shakespeare's play. Following Eros's suicide, Daniel's Antony exclaims
 O Eros, ... and hath fortune quite
 Forsaken me? must I b'outgone in all?
 What? can I not by loosing get a right?
 Shall I not haue the vpper hand to fall
 In death? must both a woman, and a slaue
 The start before me of this glory haue? (50)

Antony objects to the fact that two lesser beings, two non-Roman citizens in the form of a foreign woman (Cleopatra) and a slave (Eros), have beaten him to the virtuous Roman act of self-killing. As Eros has just been introduced by Daniel as "his late infranchis'd seruant," (51) this seems inconsistent, but the implication here must be that Daniel's Antony is registering the notion that a slave is never fully manumitted--and equally that a freedman is never considered fully a Roman citizen.

But there is another aspect to Antony's relationship to Eros, and it takes us back directly to Antony's relationship to Roman letters. Whereas in Plutarch's "Life" we are introduced to Eros only at the moment of Antony's attempted suicide, in Antony and Cleopatra he has made a series of important entries. (52) Eros first appears on stage in 3.5 in a brief encounter with Enobarbus, where, although his social function is not clear, he is seen to be in possession of "strange Newes come" (3.5.2), knowledge of Antony's whereabouts and action, and the detail that Octavius has accused Lepidus "of Letters he had formerly wrote to Pompey" (3.5.9-10). His second appearance is in 3.11, immediately following Antony's ignominious defeat at sea. In Plutarch's account, it is "Cleopatraes women," sometime afterward, who "first brought Antonius and Cleopatra to speake together, and afterwards to sup and lie together." (53) In the play, the scene occurs immediately after Antony has dismissed his attendants, and it is not solely Cleopatra's women who bring about the reconciliation. Eros enters alongside Charmian and Iras, leading Cleopatra; it is here his role to bring the two together, encouraging first the queen ("Nay gentle Madam, to him, comfort him," [3.11.25]) then the despondent general ("See you heere, Sir? ... Sir, sir ... The Queene my Lord, the Queene ... Most Noble Sir arise, the Queene approaches ... Sir, the Queene" [3.11.30, 42, 46, 50]). It is still not specified who Eros is, but unlike Cleopatra's women, he seems to be able to talk to both parties. His next appearance is in 4.4, as Antony calls for his servant to prepare him for battle: "Eros, mine Armour Eros ... Eros, come mine Armor Eros ... Come good Fellow, put thine Iron on" (4.4.1, 2, 3). This scene places Eros in competition with Cleopatra: Antony's calls for Eros are at first interrupted by Cleopatra's pleas for him to "Sleepe a little" (4.4.1) and then by her offers to help him arm. Although at first her attempts seem misplaced, soon Antony is impressed: "Thou fumblest Eros, and my Queenes a Squire / More tight at this, then thou: Dispatch" (4.4.14-15). Eros is here portrayed as the devoted servant, intent on arming his master before thinking of himself: when Antony orders him to "Go, put on thy defences," Eros puts him off with a "Briefely Sir" (4.4.10).

The servant's name, of course, is serendipitous, (54) and it is not left unexploited throughout these scenes. Antony constantly names Eros, often calling for him urgently--five times as Eros arms him (4.4), no fewer than fifteen times in the suicide scene (4.14). If Eros equals Love, however, there is no single way of reading that love. In bringing together Antony and Cleopatra following the sea disaster, Eros may be seen as pandering their affair, assuring heterosexual love; but it could equally be argued that Eros is in competition with Cleopatra for Antony's love, as they squabble over who should arm him. Both readings are possible in Antony's distracted speech, as his thoughts of the dead Cleopatra are interrupted by his calls for Eros:
 Eros? I come my Queene. Eros? Stay for me,
 Where Soules do couch on Flowers, wee'l hand in hand,
 And with our sprightly Port make the Ghostes gaze:
 Dido, and her AEneas shall want Troopes,
 And all the haunt be ours. Come Eros, Eros.


But perhaps the most telling scene of their relationship arrives when Antony realizes that Enobarbus has gone, and he orders Eros to "send his Treasure after" him (4.5.12):
 write to him,
 (I will subscribe) gentle adieu's, and greetings;
 Say, that I wish he neuer finde more cause
 To change a Master. Oh my Fortunes haue
 Corrupted honest men. Dispatch Enobarbus [or Eros?] (55)


Antony expects Eros to draft the letter, according to his general instructions ("Say, that I wish ..."), and he will provide the subscription and salutation. Clearly Eros is here functioning as Antony's secretary, a position in which many freedmen continued to serve their erstwhile masters: the most famous is probably Cicero's Tiro, who dealt with his master's finances, appeased his creditors, revised his accounts, supervised his gardens and building operations, and acted as his confidant, secretary, and literary collaborator. (56) To early modern readers, the secretary suggested a role of unparalled intimacy based not only on physical proximity (although Eros's duties in arming and disarming Antony also testify to such a relationship) but on the sharing of intellectual knowledge and secrets. In his 1592 discourse "Of the Partes, Place and Office of a Secretorie," Angel Day insists that the secretary is not made merely by "the praisable endeuour or abilitie of well writing or ordering the pen," but rather by his relationship with his master: his position thus "containeth the chiefest title of credite, and place of greatest assurance, in respect of the neerenesse and affinitie they haue of Trust, Regard, & Fidelitie, each with the other, by great conceyte and discretion." (57) Beyond this, and worryingly, the secretary writes both for and--as in this case--as his master, as he composes his words. As Richard Rambuss has shown, "Secretaryship ... does not simply mean transcribing, copying down the words of the master; rather it entails becoming the simulacrum of the master himself." (58) We see this phenomenon at work in Timon of Athens' steward Flavius, who preempts an order by Timon to go to the Senate and drum up cash by asserting,
 I haue beene bold
 (For that I knew it the most generall way)
 To them, to vse your Signet, and your Name,
 But they do shake their heads, and I am heere
 No richer in returne.


It is not clear from Flavius's statement whether he has written a letter from Timon, signing it as his master ("your Name") and sealing it with his master's seal ring ("your Signet"), or whether he has merely spoken to the senators in his master's name, producing the signet ring as proof that he was speaking with Timon's authority. But whatever the case, it is beyond doubt that Flavius is comfortable and probably accustomed to speaking, writing and sealing as his master.

The letter-writing scene is unique to Shakespeare's play, without parallel in any of the possible sources. So why does Shakespeare make Eros a letter-writing secretary? I suggest that the scene is a deliberate foreshadowing of the moment when Antony will demand Eros's hand to perform another task on his behalf--his suicide. The link between these two secretarial, manual functions, writing and self-killing, is made explicit in Decretas's report: Antony is killed, he claims, by "that selfe-hand / Which writ his Honor in the Acts it did." By turning to the trope of a handwritten honor, Decretas unconsciously draws attention to the fact that Antony does not do his own writing, and perhaps he did not write his own honor. Antony's hand is shown not to be his own. Here, the contrast with Caesar is vivid: Octavius's focus on writing is entirely personal--he reads, gathers "sentences" from the great authors, writes on tables to prepare his speeches, and writes his own letters. Antony's writing, his very hand, conversely, is the joint work of himself and Eros, and therefore his self-killing cannot be the work of his hand alone. He knows this, and so he calls on his secretary to kill him; but ultimately, the true secretary--the man whose hand is his master's--cannot be his master's hand in this task. Eros thus refuses to do the ultimate secretarial act: to use his (self-)hand against his master's body.

In building the servant Eros into both a freedman and a secretary, the play deliberately complicates Antony's actions to the point that they no longer mean what he claims they do. The impossible dual place of the secretary--the servant who is also "the simulacrum of the master"--is imposed on the impossible dual place of the freedman, slave and Roman. Antony's "selfe-hand" is no longer his, and his position as a Roman, so much a part of his self-vision, is ultimately not assured.

If Octavius's Roman historiography fails, and even Antony's very status within Roman historiography is compromised, then how does Cleopatra fare? At the climax of Antony and Cleopatra, there is a missing letter. Plutarch relates how after a countryman had delivered a basket and figs, and Cleopatra had dined,
 she sent a certaine table written and sealed vnto Caesar, and
 commaunded them all to go out of the tombes where she was, but the
 two women, then she shut the doores to her. Caesar when he receiued
 this table, and began to reade her lamentation and petition,
 requesting him that he would let her be buried with Antonius, found
 straight what she meant, and thought to haue gone thither himselfe:
 howbeit, he sent one before in all hast that might be, to see what
 it was.

However, by that time, it was too late: despite running "in all hast possible," Caesar's messengers "found Cleopatra starke dead." (59) The play dispenses with Cleopatra's sealed letter to Caesar. Instead, "an AEgyptian" (5.1.48, SD) is sent with a verbal message from Cleopatra asking for Caesar's "instruction, / That she preparedly may frame her selfe / To'th' way shee's forc'd too" (5.2.54-56). The omission of this letter runs true to form with the play's depiction of Cleopatra as preferring verbal to epistolary communication, and, in that way, it might be said to support the notion that oral Egypt is presented in opposition to literate Rome. But the omission of the letter--or more precisely, the introduction of the Egyptian messenger--can be seen to challenge the efficacy of Rome's documentary culture.

In Shakespeare's treatment, it is this Egyptian's oral message that serves to interrupt Octavius's invitation to his men to view his writings. As noted earlier, the message alerts Octavius that Cleopatra may harm herself, and he gives orders for his men to prevent her doing so, not out of humane compassion, but, once again, with an eye to posterity:
 giue her what comforts
 The quality of her passion shall require;
 Least in her greatnesse, by some mortall stroke
 She do defeate vs. For her life in Rome,
 Would be eternall in our Triumph.


If a living, captured Cleopatra in Rome will be eternal in Caesar's triumph (as Cleopatra also imagines), then it follows that her death in Egypt will be eternal in Caesar's defeat. This defeat is enacted when Dolabella reaches Cleopatra's monument, and a guard enters, noisily "rustling in" (5.2.318, SD) to announce that "Caesar hath sent--" The sentence is unfinished, and in the First Folio unpunctuated (modern editors tend to add a dash), and Charmian finishes the sentence with the sardonic "Too slow a Messenger" (5.2.320). Here, the limitations of Caesar's network of messengers are revealed. While Caesar hoped to clinch the narrative by showing his letter-book to his Council of War, instead the Romans march into the monument to examine the corpses, hoping to understand the cause of death, while Caesar pays tribute to the future longevity of this couple's memory:
 No Graue vpon the earth shall clip in it
 A payre so famous: high euents as these
 Strike those that make them: and their Story is
 No lesse in pitty, then his Glory which
 Brought them to be lamented.


Linda Charnes reads this as the crowning glory of the Roman success in historiography: "Upon learning of Cleopatra's suicide, Octavius understands immediately the political uses to which he can put a mythologized 'Antony and Cleopatra' ... He swiftly translates them from rebellious figures who escaped his control and punishment into legendary lovers.... Antony and Cleopatra can become epic lovers in the world's report only once Octavius has full control of the machinery of reproduction. Only then can they be put to historiographic use." (60) But to what extent is this myth of Antony and Cleopatra as eternally embracing "legendary lovers" truly Octavius's impulse? The notion that the queen "shall be buried by her Anthony" (5.2.357) is the request contained in her sealed letter; Antony explicitly determined to "bee / A Bride-groome in my death, and run intoo't / As to a Louers bed" (4.14.100-102). The historical Octavius ignored Antony and Cleopatra in his autobiography: the queen disappears altogether, and Antony is evoked only obliquely as "the tyranny of a faction" that Octavius suppressed in his youth. (61) But Shakespeare's Octavius, far from having "full control of the machinery of reproduction" as he hoped to have with the letters in his tent, is forced to take Cleopatra and Antony's version of events; his only power is to enshrine it in Roman historiography.

In the play's final two scenes, then, we see competing memorializing impulses played out, in ways that insist again on opposing values of Rome and Egypt, as Shakespeare depicts them. For Octavius Caesar, the history of Antony and Cleopatra will be written from the epistolary evidence of his correspondence with Mark Antony. For Cleopatra, the history will be inspired by the physical tableau of the almost perfect female corpses, and the oral testimonies of the man who last saw alive, her guard. And, as Rosalie Colie observes, Cleopatra gets the last laugh: while Rome may seem to dominate the play--a play that "begins and ends with expressions of the Roman point of view," nevertheless, "seen from another angle, Egypt commands the play, where the action begins and ends and where all the major episodes take place." (62) Colie's formulation implicitly contrasts Roman "expressions" versus Egyptian "action," Octavius's words versus Cleopatra's gestures. In this, Colie subscribes tacitly to the oft-asserted association between Cleopatra and the theater, in which commonplace antitheatrical prejudice is deployed against the exotic, foreign, stagy queen. (63) Here, however, that same Egyptian theatricality becomes an effective challenge to Roman historiography and, within the terms of the play, may be said to defeat it. (64) For the showing of these "Writings" is superseded by the call to see the queen: the play ends not in Octavius's tent, with the viewing of his letters, but--through heeding the oral message of her Egyptian servant--inside Cleopatra's monument. In allowing that image to occupy the final moments of the play, Shakespeare--or perhaps theater itself--comes down on the side of Egyptian spectacle, and against Roman letters.

I am grateful to James Shapiro and Garrett Sullivan for their comments on an earlier version of this article.


(1.) Unless otherwise noted, quotations of Shakespeare's plays follow the text The First Folio of Shakespeare, prep. Charlton Hiinman (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968), a facsimile edition of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies (London, 1623). They are cross-referenced to act, scene, line numbers keyed to Antony and Cleopatra, ed. John Wilders (New York: Routledge, Arden Shakespeare, 3rd series, 1998); Julius Caesar ed. David Daniell (New York: Thomson, Arden Shakespeare, 3rd series, 1998); and Timon of Athens ed. H. J. Oliver (New York: Methuen, Arden Shakespeare, 2nd series, 1969).

(2.) W. B. Worthen, "The Weight of Antony: Staging 'Character' in Antony and Cleopatra," Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 26 (1986): 297.

(3.) C. C. Barfoot, "News from the Roman Empire: Hearsay, Soothsay, Myth and History in Antony and Cleopatra," in Reclamations of Shakespeare, ed. A. J. Hoenselaars (Atlanta GA: Rodopi, 1994), 113. I am grateful to Garrett Sullivan for bringing Professor Barfoot's useful essay to my attention.

(4.) Garrett A. Sullivan, "'My oblivion is a very Antony'," in Memory and Forgetting in English Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 89.

(5.) Linda Charnes, "Spies and Whispers: Exceeding Reputation in Antony and Cleopatra," in Notorious Identity: Materializing the Subject in Shakespeare (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 106, 107.

(6.) P. A. Brunt and J. M. Moore, eds., introduction to Res gestae divi Augusti: The Achievements of the Divine Augustus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), 1-16.

(7.) Simon Goulart, "The Life of Octaius Caesar Augustus," in The Lives of Epaminondas, of Philip of Macedon, of Dionysivs the Elder, and of Octavivs Caesar Avgvstvs: collected out of good Authors; Also the liues of nine excellent Chieftaines of warre, taken out of Latine from Emylivs Probvs, trans. Thomas North (London: Richard Field, 1603), e4r-g4r (51-75) at e4v-e5r (52-53).

(8.) Here I share common ground with Ronald Macdonald, who argues that Shakespeare indulged in "an historical questioning of classicism in general, the peculiar prestige accorded it in learned Renaissance circles, and its centrality for European culture. He came to see that the centrality of classicism was not a 'natural' phenomenon at all, but a cultural and historical construct, and one, like all constructs, embodied assumptions of an ideological kind, about what we know and how, about the nature of history, about stability and order, and perhaps most of all, assumptions about language and its role in shaping the very assumptions we so often take for fact." Ronald R. Macdonald, "Playing Till Doomsday: Interpreting Antony and Cleopatra," English Literary Renaissance 15 (1985): 79.

(9.) Worthen, one of the few critics to comment on these letters, argues similarly: "Throughout the play, Caesar relies on narrative--the 'news' of Alexandria, Antony's 'reported' (I.iv.67) exploits in the Alps, perhaps even in the 'writings' he offers in his defense after Antony's death (V.i.76)--to characterize his general, means which enable Caesar more easily to assimilate Antony's actions to an interpretive text: Antony becomes the 'abstract of all faults / That men follow' (I.iv.9-10). Caesar's characterization of Antony consistently privileges the absent 'character' of history over the present 'character' of performance." "The Weight of Antony," 299.

(10.) Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romaines, compared together ... Hereunto are affixed the liues of Epaminados ... etc [by Simon Goulart], trans. Thomas North (London: Richard Field for Thomas Wight, 1603), Llll 5v (946).

(11.) He later remembers that he has already sent Dolabella, too late, to implore Antony to yield.

(12.) For a recent analysis of this notion, see James Hirsh, "Rome and Egypt in Antony and Cleopatra and in Criticism of the Play," in Antony and Cleopatra: New Critical Essays, ed. Sara Munson Deats, 175-91 (New York: Routledge, 2005).

(13.) John F. Danby, Poets on Fortune's Hill: Studies in Sidney, Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher (London: Faber & Faber, 1952), 140.

(14.) Maurice Charney, Shakespeare's Roman Plays: The Function of Imagery in the Drama (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), 93.

(15.) See, for example, Charney, Shakespeare's Roman Plays, 93-112; Rosalie L. Colie, "Antony and Cleopatra: The Significance of Style," in Shakespeare's Living Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 168, 177, 179. The most recent Arden edition attests to the tenacity of this reading: "For the Romans the ideal is measured in masculine, political, pragmatic, military terms, the subservience of the individual to the common good of the state, of personal pleasure to public duty, of private, domestic loyalties to the demands of empire. Alexandria, on the other hand, is a predominantly female society for which the ideal is measured in terms of the intensity of emotion, of physical sensation, the subservience of social responsibility to the demands of feeling." Wilders, Antony and Cleopatra, 28.

(16.) Danby, Poets on Fortune's Hill, 151.

(17.) Jonathan Gil Harris, "'Narcissus in thy face': Roman Desire and the Difference it Fakes in Antony and Cleopatra," Shakespeare Quarterly 45 (1994): 408-25; Carol Cook, "The Fatal Cleopatra," in Shakespearean Tragedy and Gender, ed. Shirley Nelson Garner and Madelon Sprengnether, 241-67 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996); Hirsh, "Rome and Egypt."

(18.) In 1958, Benjamin Spencer argued that the play "shows ... an as yet undefined synthesis lying beyond both Rome and Egypt but partaking of the values of both." Spencer, "Antony and Cleopatra and the Paradoxical Metaphor," Shakespeare Quarterly 9 (1958): 373-78.

(19.) "No one gets far into Antony and Cleopatra without discovering that it is a play swarming with messengers": Macdonald, "Playing Till Doomsday," 85.

(20.) Janet Adelman, The Common Liar: An Essay on Antony and Cleopatra (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), esp. 34-39; Charnes, "Spies and Whispers"; Barfoot, "News from the Roman Empire."

(21.) Barfoot has commented similarly that "Verbally, orally, the Roman Empire is observed articulating itself, giving conscious expression to itself through word of mouth, and through deliberate acts of writing; and defining itself spatially, geographically, through the need to conduct business by letter and messenger, and historically by the provision of documents and of witnesses (since presumably what we see in the play, on and across the stage, is a mere fraction of all the messages that are being dispatched about the Empire)." However, Barfoot does not make a distinction, as I shall attempt, between Roman and Egyptian modes of communication. Barfoot, "News from the Roman Empire," 108.

(22.) F1 reads "abstracts"; F2 and all subsequent editions read "abstract." Wilders glosses "there" as "i.e., in the letter"; Antony and Cleopatra, ed. Wilders, 114, note on 1.4.8.

(23.) Barfoot notes, "Significantly, the main charge levelled against Lepidus when he is deposed is that he wrote letters to Pompey (3.5.8-10): clearly letter writing can be a contentious and dangerous occupation in the Roman Empire, and may be used in evidence against you." "News from the Roman Empire," 108-9.

(24.) John Michael Archer, Old Worlds: Egypt, Southwest Asia, India, and Russia in Early Modern English Writing (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 23-62. Archer discusses book 2 of Herodotus' Histories, trans. B.R. as The Famous Hystory of Herodotus (London: Thomas Marshe, 1584); Diodorus Siculus's Library of History; Ethiopica, trans. Thomas Underdowne in 1587.

(25.) Philemon Holland "The Summarie" to his trans., Plutarch, "Of Isis and Osiris," in The Philosophie, commonlie called the Morals (London: Arnold Hatfield, 1603), Qqqqqv-Qqqqq2r (1286-87).

(26.) Wilders sees this as a symptom of Alexandria's female/Egyptian emotionalism: "Hence Cleopatra must send to Antony every day a several greeting or she'll unpeople Egypt"; Antony and Cleopatra, 28. Barfoot would counter: "At first we may suspect that Cleopatra's tally of 'twenty several messengers' is a characteristic piece of self-indulgent hyperbole; but we have no reason for believing that it is, and if what we as the audience see in the three hours' traffic on the stage is anything to go by, for all we know there are twenty thousand envoys currently employed at any single moment through the length and breadth of the Empire." "News from the Roman Empire," 108-9.

(27.) Plutarch, Lives, Llllv (938).

(28.) Samuel Brandon, The Tragicomoedi of the virtuous Octauia (London: William Ponsonby, 1598), B3r; for the letters see F8r (argument), F8v-H2r (Octavia to Antony), and H2r-H7v (Antony to Octavia); Samuel Daniel, "A Letter sent from Octania to her husband Marcus Antonius into Egypt," in Certaine Small Workes heretofore Divulged ... & now againe by him corrected and augmented (London: I.W. for Simon Waterson, 1607), F2r-G2v.

(29.) "Sir, he fell vpon me, ere admitted, then: / Three Kings I had newly feasted, and did want / Of what I was i'th' morning: but next day / I told him of my selfe, which was as much / As to bane askt him pardon" (2.2.79-84).

(30.) See Anton J. L. van Hooff, From Autothanasia to Suicide: Self-killing in Classical Antiquity (New York: Routledge, 1990); Timothy D. Hill, Ambitiosa Mors: Suicide and Self in Roman Thought and Literature (New York: Routledge, 2004).

(31.) For important considerations of hands in the early modern period, see Jonathan Goldberg, "Hamlet's Hand," Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988): 307-27; Goldberg, Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990); Katherine Rowe, Dead Hands: Fictions of Agency, Renaissance to Modern (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).

(32.) Plutarch, Lives, Llll 5r-v (945-6).

(33.) Leeds Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare's Theater: The Stuart Years (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 160-65.

(34.) Plutarch, Les vies des hommes illvstres grecs et romains, compares l'vne avec l'avtre trans. Jacques Amyot with additions by Charles de l'Ecluse (Paris: Pierre Cheuillot, 1579), EEE. iijr.

(35.) Mary [Sidney Herbert], Countess of Pembroke, The Tragedie of Antonie, Doone into English (London: William Ponsonby, 1595), F5r.

(36.) Robert Gamier, M. Antoine, Tragedie (Paris: Mamert Patisson, 1578), I.jr.

(37.) Richard Barckley, A Discovrse of the Felicitie of Man, or His Summum bonum (London: William Ponsonby, 1598), D6v-D7r: "Antonius turning to his man Eros whom he had prouided before to kill him if neede were, required him to performe his promise. Eros taking his sword in his hand, & making as though he would strike his master, suddenly turned the point to his own bodie, and thrust him selfe through, and fell downe dead at his maisters feet. Which when Antonius saw; well done Eros (quoth he) thou hast aptly taught me by thine owne example, that thou couldest not finde in thy heart to do it, and therewith he thrust the sword into his owne belly, & cast him selfe vpon his bed."

(38.) Robert Allott, Wits Theater of the little World (London: I.R. for N.L., 1599), K6v-K7r: "Eros, the seruant of Antonius, hauing promised to kill his Maister when hee requested him, drew his sword, and holding it as if hee would haue killed him, turned his Maisters head aside, and thrust the sword into his own body. Plutarch."

(39.) Brandon, Tragicomoedi of the virtuous Octauia, F4v.

(40.) Daniel, "The Tragedie of Cleopatra," in Certaine Small Workes, G3r-Lr, at G8r. The scene (Dircetus's account to Caesar of Antony's demise) is not in earlier editions of the play.

(41.) There is evidence that freedmen filled the posts of procurator (general manager, often involving several other functions), lorarius (overseer), cocus (cook), structor (headwaiter or meat-carver), cubicularius (keeper of the bedchamber), nomenclator (who reminded the master of his social duties), pedisequi (footmen), pedagogi and grammatici, doctors, clerical staff, including private secretary--(a manu or amanuensis), anagostae (readers), librarii (copyists), librarioli (bookmakers), glutinatores (roll-makers)--and, notably, letter carriers. A number of high-grade bureaucrats were also freedmen. See A. M. Duff, Freedmen in the Early Roman Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1928), 90-91; Susan Treggiari, Roman Freedmen during the Late Republic (1969; repr., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 68-81, 145-49; Aaron Kirschenbaum, Sons, Slaves and Freedmen in Roman Commerce (Jerusalem: Magnes Press/Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1987), 98, 127-40.

(42.) Plutarch, Lives, Kkkk 5r (933).

(43.) The Rhamnus moment had earlier been dramatized by Samuel Brandon:
 That Antony, with feare of treason mooued,
 Made Ramnus humbly sweare vpon his knee,
 To strike that head, that head so much beloued,
 From of his shoulders, when he once should see
 Vneuitable danger, to lay holde,
 Vpon himselfe ...

Brandon does not, however, confer any status on Rhamnus. Tragicomoedi of the virtuous Octauia, B6r.

(44.) Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare's Theater, 163.

(45.) Plutarch, Lives, Iiii 5r (921).

(46.) Ibid., Rrrrv (1010).

(47.) Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare's Theater, 163n14.

(48.) Again, the passage is taken from North's Plutarch: "Whereupon Antonius caused him to be taken and well fauouredly whipped, and so sent him vnto Caesar: and bad him tell him that he made him angrie with him, because he shewed himselfe proud and disdainefull towards him, and now specially, when he was easie to be angred, by reason of his present miserie. To be short, if this mislike thee (said he) thou hast Hipparehus one of my infranchised bondmen with thee: hang him if thou wilt, or whippe him at thy pleasure, that we may crie quittance." Plutarch, Lives, Llll 4v (944). The character is named Thyrsus in North's Plutarch.

(49.) Plutarch, Lives, Llll 3v (942).

(50.) Daniel, "Tragedie of Cleopatra," G8v.

(51.) Ibid., G8r.

(52.) Wilders makes the general point, but somehow misses the earliest introduction of the character: "This is Plutarch's first reference to Eros, but Shakespeare introduces him as early as 3.11.24 [sic--it's in 3.5] and gives his name repeatedly in 4.4." On 258, note on 4.14.63-68.

(53.) Plutarch, Lives, Llll 3v (942).

(54.) In Edward Phillips's The New World of English Words, or, A General Dictionary (London: E. Tyler for Nath. Brooke, 1658), Antony's Eros is the definition of the word: "Eros, the servant of Mark Antony, who killed himself, because he would not see his master fall" (O2v). Only in the third edition of 1671 is the usual definition also given: "Eros, according to the Ethnic Poets the God of love, who in Latin is commonly called Cupido, also the name of Mark Anthony's servant who killed himself, because he would not see his Master fall, the word in Greek signifying love." The New World of Words, or a General English Dictionary ... the third Edition (London: Nath. Brook, 1671), R2r.

(55.) F1 reads Enobarbus, while F2 gives Eros; editors often now follow F1, but separate "Enobarbus" from the imperative "Dispatch," turning it into a reflective sigh.

(56.) Kirschenbaum, Sons, Slaves and Freedmen, 135-38.

(57.) Angel Day, The English Secretorie (London: Richard Jones, 1592), P4v. On the figure of the secretary, see Jonathan Goldberg, Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), 231-78; Richard Rambuss, Spenser's Secret Career (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 30-48; Alan Stewart, "The Early Modern Closet Discovered," Representations 50 (1995): 76-100.

(58.) Rambuss, Spenser's Secret Career, 43. Rambuss cites a passage from Day's English Secretorie, whose elusive and fraught syntax betrays the concerns about the master-secretary relationship:
 Much is the felicity that the Master or Lord receaueth euermore of
 such a seruant, in the charie affection and regard of whome affying
 himselfe assuredly, hee findeth he is not alone a commaunder of his
 outward actions, but the disposer of his very thoughtes, yea hee is
 the Soueraigne of all his desires, in whose bosome hee holdeth the
 respose of his safety to be far more precious, then either estate,
 lining, or aduauncement, whereof men earthly minded are for the
 most part desirous.

As Rambuss comments of the line "yea hee is the Soueraigne of all his desires," "Is the antecedent of 'he' the master, making the antecedent of 'his' the secretary? Or is it just the opposite?" The effect is that "Day does not allow the possibility of grammatically distinguishing between the master and the secretary, thus undoing the familiar and socially grounding distinctions between commander and commanded, disposer and disposed, sovereign and servant." Day, English Secretorie, R4v; Rambuss, Spenser's Secret Career, 46.

(59.) Plutarch, Lives, Mmmmr (949).

(60.) Charnes, 144-45.

(61.) "Annos undeviginiti natus exercitum privato consilio et privata impensa comparavi, per quem rem publicam a dominatione factionis oppressam in libertatem vindicavi" ["At the age of nineteen on my own responsibility and at my own expense I raised an army, with which I successfully championed the liberty of the republic when it was oppressed by the tyranny of a faction"]. Res gestae divi Augusti, ed. Brunt and Moore, 18, 19.

(62.) Colie, "Antony and Cleopatra: The Significance of Style," 180.

(63.) See, for example, Phyllis Rackin, "Shakespeare's Boy Cleopatra, the Decorum of Nature, and the Golden World of Poetry," PMLA 87 (1972): 201-12; Jyotsna Singh, "Renaissance Antitheatricality, Antifeminism, and Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra," Renaissance Drama n.s., 20 (1990): 99-121.

(64.) Phyllis Rackin makes a similar argument for Cleopatra's supremacy: "By admitting the reality of Rome, Shakespeare is able to celebrate the power of Egypt: by acknowledging the validity of the threat, he can demonstrate the special power that shows have to overcome the limitations of a reality that threatens to refute them." Rackin, "Shakespeare's Boy Cleopatra," 207.
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Author:Stewart, Alan
Publication:Shakespeare Studies
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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