Cleopatra

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, act II, scene 2Enobarbus’ famous speech (“The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, burned on the water”) begins at 7.30

On this date in 30 B.C. Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt, committed suicide.

Frye on Shakespeare’s Cleopatra in The Return of Eden:

Cleopatra in Shakespeare is all the things that the critics of Milton say Eve is.  She is vain and frivolous and light-minded and capricious and extravagant and irresponsible and a very bad influence on Antony, who ought to be out chasing Parthians instead of wasting his time with her.  She is morally a most despicable character, yet there is something about her which is good: we cannot feel that Cleopatra is evil in the way that Goneril and Regan are evil.  For one thing, Cleopatra can always be unpredictable, and as long as she can be that she is human.  Goneril and Regan are much closer to what is meant in religion by lost souls, and what that means dramatically is that they can no longer be predictable . . . At the same time Cleopatra is part of something far more sinister than herself: this comes out in the imagery attached to Egypt, if not in the characterization attached to her.  Putting the two together, what we see is the human contained by the demonic, a fascinating creature of infinite variety who is still, from another point of view, sprung from the equivocal generation of the Nile.  (CW 16, 52)

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