Plutarch and Shakespeare Compared

The Life of Marcus Antonius Antony and Cleopatra
Antony's empire extended from Euphrates and Armenia to the Ionian sea and the Illyrians; Caesar's, from Illyria to the westward ocean, and from the ocean all along the Tuscan and Sicilian sea. Of Africa, Caesar had all the coast opposite to Italy, Gaul, and Spain, as far as the Pillars of Hercules, and Antony the provinces from Cyrene to Aethiopia. But so wholly was he now the mere appendage to the person of Cleopatra that, although he was much superior to the enemy in land-forces, yet, out of complaisance to his mistress, he wished the victory to be gained by sea, and that, too, when he could not but see how, for want of sailors, his captains, all through unhappy Greece, were pressing every description of men, common travellers and ass-drivers, harvest labourers and boys, and for all this the vessels had not their complements, but remained. most of them, ill-manned and badly rowed. Caesar, on the other side, had ships that were built not for size or show, but for service, not pompous galleys, but light, swift, and perfectly manned. [I]t would not be any kind of disparagement to him [Antony] to yield the sea to Caesar, who, in the Sicilian wars, had had such long practice in ship-fighting; on the contrary, it would be simply ridiculous for Antony, who was by land the most experienced commander living, to make no use of his well-disciplined and numerous infantry, scattering and wasting his forces by parcelling them out in the ships...
But for all this, Cleopatra prevailed that a sea-fight should determine all, having already an eye to flight, and ordering all her affairs, not so as to assist in gaining a victory, but to escape with the greatest safety from the first commencement of a defeat.
[ANTONY]Canidius, we
Will fight with him by sea.
CLEOPATRA
By sea! what else?
CANIDIUS
Why will my lord do so?
MARK ANTONY
For that he dares us to't.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS
So hath my lord dared him to single fight.
CANIDIUS
Ay, and to wage this battle at Pharsalia.
Where Caesar fought with Pompey: but these offers,
Which serve not for his vantage, be shakes off;
And so should you.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS
Your ships are not well mann'd;
Your mariners are muleters, reapers, people
Ingross'd by swift impress; in Caesar's fleet
Are those that often have 'gainst Pompey fought:
Their ships are yare; yours, heavy: no disgrace
Shall fall you for refusing him at sea,
Being prepared for land.
MARK ANTONY
By sea, by sea.
DOMITIUS ENOBARBUS
Most worthy sir, you therein throw away
The absolute soldiership you have by land;
Distract your army, which doth most consist
Of war-mark'd footmen; leave unexecuted
Your own renowned knowledge; quite forego
The way which promises assurance; and
Give up yourself merely to chance and hazard,
From firm security.
MARK ANTONY
I'll fight at sea.
CLEOPATRA
I have sixty sails, Caesar none better.

III.vii.27-49


Commentary:

Although Plutarch writes that Cleopatra influenced Antoony into fighting at sea when his strength was really on land, Shakespeare makes her role much more ambiguous. She makes only the two remarks cites in the passage above. Egypt was poerful at sea, but a comment Cleopatra makes elsewhere in Plutarch (fishing scene) suggests she had a good idea of where his strengths lay as a soldier.???????
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