Caesar and Cleopatra: Fact or Fiction

Caesar and Cleopatra: Fact or Fiction

A Comparison of How the Lives of Caesar and Cleopatra are Depicted in Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra and the Film Classic Cleopatra with the Actual Events that Transpired

Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra

In the play Caesar and Cleopatra by Bernard Shaw, we are shown a fictional tracing of the relationship shared by Caesar and Cleopatra. It is apparent, very early in the play, that Shaw's details are somewhat off the mark.

In decifering Shaw's historical inaccuracies, we must first examine his portrayal of Cleopatra. One of the most significant changes made by Shaw was the age of Cleopatra on her initial meeting with Caesar. In the play, Cleopatra is a young girl of sixteen; however, history shows that she was older, around the age of twenty or twenty-one.

Another example of the poetic license taken by Shaw was his account of HOW Cleopatra and Caesar met. In the play, Caesar accidently comes across Cleopatra as he is walking toward a sphinx and she is purched on one of its paws. Cleopatra, not knowing the true identity of Caesar, explains that she is very frightened by the approach of Caesar. Caesar teases her, and Cleopatra is shown as a flighty, somewhat dimwitted little child over whelmed by her own fears.

A distorted version of the true meeting of Caesar and Cleopatra is shown later in the play, however it is spoken of as an attempt by an obsessive Cleopatra to see Caesar once again. With this as her motivation, we see Cleopatra's character in the play as an overbearing young girl who does little more than get in Caesar's way. This is recognized upon Caesar's receiving the rug, because he immediately asks for Cleopatra to be taken back to Egypt.

The play depicts Cleopatra as a stereotypical, spoiled female whose motivations lead her only to attempt to get the man whom she desires rather than power or respect. Cleopatra, in the play, is flighty and somewhat dimwitted. Shaw has Cleopatra fall into a predisposed stereotype of a women in love. Cleopatra, in the play, is unable to concentrate on little else but Caesar.

Caesar, on the other hand, is shown as a rightoues and good man who helps those in need rather than a tyrannical and hard handed ruler. Caesar's actions are thought of as noble and brave. He is a person to be admired and adhered to. In the play, Caesar is likable, amiable and caring. This is in direct contrast to the historical accounts of Caesar which have recored his demeanor as being much different!

To see a profile of Bernard Shaw, click here.

Cleopatra The Movie

While the movie Cleopatra shows Cleopatra in a better light, there are still a great deal of historical inaccuracies. These are shown in various ways; however, they are most prominant in the relationships shared by Cleopatra and Caesar and Cleopatra and Mark Antony.

In this movie, Cleopatra is shown as a well-educated woman of strength and conviction. This image of Cleopatra is probably much more accurate when compared with that of Shaw. Cleopatra is also shown in the movie as being a woman of power and respect.

The relationship Cleopatra shared with Caesar is also closer to that which actually happened. In the movie, we see Cleopatra first meeting Caesar after having herself wrapped in a rug in order for her presence to go otherwise unnoticed. Between Caesar and Cleopatra, we also see the love interest that began between the two as well as the child which they had. The movie also shows Cleopatra as having some intuative notion and insight upon the death of Caesar.

In the movie, Caeser is also closer to his actual personality. We see him show some degree of acknowledgemeant towards Cleopatra and it is obvious to the viewer that he has developed a liking towards her. Caesar's life in the movie, however, is shorter than that of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. We see his death scene where, after a series of brutal stabbings by others, his (supposed) natural son Brutus gives him a final blow to which Caesar remarks, "You to, Brutus?"

Cleopatra's affair with Mark Antoney is also mentioned in the movie where it is only touched upon in Shaw's play. We know that Cleopatra and Mark Antony did, in fact, have a relationship and also have children. However, the movie makes no mention of Cleopatra's children with Mark Antony. Rather, only her son Caesarion, (her son with Caesar) is mentioned.

If you'd like to see a review of the movie Cleopatra click here.

Cleopatra and Caesar: What Really Happened

Cleopatra was born in 69 B.C, she was one of four children at birth. However, her two older sisters were assasinated leaving her to be the oldest with brother Ptolemy behind her. When she was 18, her father died leaving the rule of Egypt to Cleopatra and her ten-year old brother Ptolemy. Soon, however, a quarrel ensued between Cleopatra and her brother. Cleopatra eventually lost her throne, leaving Egypt in the hands of her young brother.

In comes Caesar, traveling to Egypt in order to collect debts owed to him. Upon his arrival in Egypt, Cleopatra feels she needs to speak to him. In order to do this secretly, Cleopatra has herself wrappedin a rug and brought to Caesar. Caesar took a liking to young Cleopatra and a relationship developed between the two. (Even though Caesar was already married) Caesar saw to it that Cleopatra regain her rightful throne and she sat as ruler of Egypt due to Caesar's handiwork.

Cleopatra later bore a son, whom she named Ptolemy Caesarion. It is likely that the father was Caesar, since he traveled with Cleopatra in the time of her pregnancy. Caesar, however, never admitted the son to be his. (Cleopatra would later marry Mark Antony and with him bear three children.)

When Caesar died, Cleopatra was disappointed when, instead of naming Caesarion his heir, he named his great nephew Octavian. Upon Ptolemy's death, Cleopatra named her son Caesarion as coruler of Egypt. Cleopatra, in the end committed suicide in order to avoid being held under the thumb of Octavian.

If you'd like to learn more about Caesar and Cleopatra click here for Caesar or here for Cleopatra

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