Egyptian Messenger brings Cleopatra the news of Antony’s marriage.
Knowing that his news will be unwelcome, he takes as long as possible to actually state it. When Cleopatra begins to strike him, he begs her not to kill the messenger – what has happened is not his fault. Thogh not necessarily a coward, he is terrified when Cleopatra begins beating him and draws a knife on him. He refuses to lie, but when he returns to describe Octavia, he very diplomatically hedges and manages to phrase everything about her in a way that will be to Cleopatra’s advantage. He then makes a mistake, however: being a young man, he thinks Octavia is old at thirty, not realizing that Cleopatra herself is well past that age, and that he has just made a grave mistake.