You take from me a great part of myself.
Use me well in ’t. Sister, prove such a wife
As my thoughts make thee, and as my farthest bond
Shall pass on thy aproof.—Most noble Antony,
Let not the piece of virtue which is set
Betwixt 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.
(Act 3, scene 2, lines 29–38)

Following the advice that Agrippa offers him in act 2, scene 2, Octavius offers Antony his sister, Octavia, as a means of securing peace between them. On the one hand, this gesture attests to the power that men ascribe to women and female sexuality in this play. Cleopatra evidently represents the “wrong” kind of sexuality. Sexually open and unbridled, Cleopatra exhibits no shame about her physical attractiveness or about her privileging of sensual pleasure. The fact that Antony has been lured in by her feminine wiles clearly shows the danger she poses, as does the fact that she seduced Julius Caesar and produced a child with him. By contrast, Octavia embodies the “right” kind of female sexuality—that is, a sexuality that is constrained by reason and a sense of duty. This type of restrained sexuality, which in many ways is characterized by a lack of sexuality, prevents Octavia from posing the kind of threat to men that Cleopatra clearly does.

If men in Antony and Cleopatra want to control female sexuality, it’s partly out of a fear of emasculation, but it’s also a strategy of establishing personal and political relationships with other men. In Octavia’s case, her modest “piece of virtue” promises to secure the bond between Octavius and Antony. Octavius’s language here is particularly important, since the words he chooses to describe Antony’s union to Octavia and, by extension, his link to Octavius, relies on the rhetoric of construction: “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. Just as the sexual union between a man and a woman cements a marriage bond, it also secures political unions in the service of building a stronger state. In other words, the control and repression of female sexuality is a tool men use to reinforce the political foundations of the empire. This is Roman patriarchy in action.