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take from me a great part of myself.
well in’t. Sister, prove such a wife
thoughts make thee, and as my farthest bond
pass on thy aproof. Most noble Antony,
not the piece of virtue which is set
us as the cement of our love
To keep it builded,
be the ram to batter
The fortress of it; for
better might we
Have loved without this mean
if on both parts
This be not cherished.
Following the advice that Agrippa offers
him in Act II, scene ii, Caesar offers Antony his sister, Octavia,
as a means of securing peace between them. This gesture attests
to the power that men ascribe to women and female sexuality in this
play. What men consider the wrong kind of female sexuality—embodied
proudly and openly by Cleopatra—stands as a threat to men, their
reason, and sense of duty. What they consider the right kind, however,
as represented by the modest “piece of virtue” Octavia, promises
to be “the cement” of Caesar’s love for Antony. Caesar’s language,
here, is particularly important: the words he chooses to describe
Antony’s union to Octavia and, by extension, his reunion with Caesar,
belong to the vocabulary of builders: “the cement of
our love / To keep it builded, be the ram to batter
/ The fortress of it” (emphasis added). This language
makes an explicit connection between the private realm of love and
the public realm of the state, a connection that causes Caesar more
than a little anxiety throughout the play.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Antony and Cleopatra!