At the palace with her attendants, Cleopatra is confused by Antony’s wrath; she does not understand his anger, and she tries one last scheme to see if she can win him back. Charmian has suggested that she go to her monument (the tomb which she has had built in the event of her death). There, she is to send word to Antony that she is dead; she instructs Mardian, the eunuch, to report to her how Antony reacts to this news.
This is a dangerous ploy on Cleopatra’s part, but she is desperate to dispel Antony’s persistent doubts about her. Here we see the nature of the conflicts that have continually arisen between these two lovers. Cleopatra has always responded to adversity with a subtle scheme to circumvent its worst effects, if she can. This has made her seem more devious than perhaps she is; in fact, her response may be more of a cultural trait, part and parcel of life in an Oriental court, than it is a personal character trait. Antony, on the other hand, responds directly and impulsively to negative events; as a result, he frequently falls into the error of acting rashly and embroiling himself in unnecessary complications. Now, both Cleopatra and Antony misjudge the other’s motives — with tragic results, as we shall see shortly.