Plutarch and Shakespeare Compared

The Life of Marcus Antonius Antony and Cleopatra
[Caesar and Antony] made a reconciliation first, and then a partition of the empire between them, taking as their boundary the Ionian Sea, the eastern provinces falling to Antony, to Caesar the western, and Africa being left to Lepidus. And an agreement was made that everyone in their turn, as they thought fit, should make their friends consuls, when they did not choose to take the offices themselves.
These terms were well approved of, but yet it was thought some closer tie would be desirable; and for this, fortune offered occasion. Caesar had an elder sister, not of the whole blood, for Attia was his mother's name, hers Ancharia. This sister, Octavia, he was extremely attached to, as indeed she was, it is said, quite a wonder of a woman. Her husband, Caius Marcellus, had died not long before, and Antony was now a widower by the death of Fulvia; for, though he did not disavow the passion he had for Cleopatra, yet he disowned anything of marriage, reason as yet, upon this point, still maintaining the debate against the charms of the Egyptian. Everybody concurred in promoting this new alliance, fully expecting that with the beauty, honour, and prudence of Octavia, when her company should, as it was certain it would, have engaged his affections, all would be kept in the safe and happy course of friendship. So, both parties being agreed, they went to Rome to celebrate the nuptials, the senate dispensing with the law by which a widow was not permitted to marry till ten months after the death of her husband.


OCTAVIA

AGRIPPA
Give me leave, Caesar,--
OCTAVIUS CAESAR
Speak, Agrippa.
AGRIPPA
Thou hast a sister by the mother's side,
Admired Octavia: great Mark Antony
Is now a widower.
OCTAVIUS CAESAR
Say not so, Agrippa:
If Cleopatra heard you, your reproof
Were well deserved of rashness.
MARK ANTONY
I am not married, Caesar: let me hear
Agrippa further speak.
AGRIPPA
To hold you in perpetual amity,
To make you brothers, and to knit your hearts
With an unslipping knot, take Antony
Octavia to his wife; whose beauty claims
No worse a husband than the best of men;
Whose virtue and whose general graces speak
That which none else can utter. By this marriage,
All little jealousies, which now seem great,
And all great fears, which now import their dangers,
Would then be nothing: truths would be tales,
Where now half tales be truths: her love to both
Would, each to other and all loves to both,
Draw after her. Pardon what I have spoke;
For 'tis a studied, not a present thought,
By duty ruminated.
MARK ANTONY
Will Caesar speak?
OCTAVIUS CAESAR
Not till he hears how Antony is touch'd
With what is spoke already.
MARK ANTONY
What power is in Agrippa,
If I would say, 'Agrippa, be it so,'
To make this good?
OCTAVIUS CAESAR
The power of Caesar, and
His power unto Octavia.
MARK ANTONY
May I never
To this good purpose, that so fairly shows,
Dream of impediment! Let me have thy hand:
Further this act of grace: and from this hour
The heart of brothers govern in our loves
And sway our great designs!
OCTAVIUS CAESAR
There is my hand.
A sister I bequeath you, whom no brother
Did ever love so dearly: let her live
To join our kingdoms and our hearts; and never
Fly off our loves again!

II.ii.117-154


Commentary:

In Antony and Cleopatra, the Triumvirate of Caesar, Antony, and Lepidus seems to have been made already, and the marriage between Antony and Octavia arranged simply as a way of further promoting peace between Caesar and Antony.
Page 8 of 61