How Cleopatra acts when Antony is away reveals a lot about her character and how she feels about herself and Antony. The scene starts off with Cleopatra asking Charmian for a narcotic so that she can ‘sleep out this great gap of time’ that her Antony is away. She is thinking about Antony’s every move ‘Stands he, or sits he?’ and speaks jealously of the horse that he may be sitting on. Horse back riding is associated with sexual intercourse, and she speaks of how the horse should be proud to hold Antony.
She talks of how the horse would not know who it is taking, that Antony is the ‘demi-atlas’ of the world meaning he holds half the world, and is the ultimate soldier equipped only with his arm and a light helmet.
She then starts talking about herself and Antony, she is very complimenting to herself, but explains that she is feeding herself ‘most delicious poison’ when she has the thought that Antony is thinking of her.
She carries on to say this self-flattery is, although nice, not good. She talks vividly of how she feels love pinches and bruises, showing her violent side but also an erotic side. She then starts to be hard on herself, asking why Antony would ever think of her, she calls her self ‘black’, which is unattractive to the Romans. This is confirmed before hand where Philo describes her as ‘tawny’ referring to the colours of gypsies and gypsy ways (magic and witchcraft).
However to console herself almost, she speaks of her former lovers, Caesar and Pompey and how they saw her and treated her. These sudden changes in the subjects she chooses to speak about shows her ever-changing personality. First she speaks of how Antony must be thinking about her, then that he isn’t, then how he must see her in a bad way, and then how her former lovers adored her. She’s a very confusing character, who even Antony will probably never figure out. Alexas interrupts here, a messenger from Antony, to present an orient pearl to Cleopatra.
Cleopatra seems happy with Alexas’ message from Antony but continues to question him about Antony. ‘What, was he sad, or merry?’ Alexas explains to Cleopatra that he was neither sad nor merry. Cleopatra’s response to this is interesting as she justifies this information in favour of herself and Antony. She says that he cannot be sad as people look up to him, but he also cannot be merry as it shows people he wants to be in Egypt. ‘He shall have every day a several greeting, Or I’ll unpeople Egypt’, this extravagant, expression is her response to Alexas when he questions why she sends so many messengers, (‘twenty several messengers’ per day).
It means that she loves Antony beyond all other concerns. Cleopatra’s language is serious yet exaggerating, it could be seen in a preposterous way, for example ‘Or I’ll be damned’. However it is still a very violent expression, revealing Cleopatra’s unethical ways of dealing with certain situations. Her violent response to Alexas would scare most men off a woman, but not Cleopatra, she is explained by Enobarbus that ‘she makes hungry where she most satisfies’ later on in the play.