Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, Egypt’s Harlot Queen?

Does Shakespeare make Cleopatra a seductive witch? To find answers we will explore the bard’s two plays in which Cleopatra appears, Julius Caesar, and, of course, Antony and Cleopatra. The fact that his character of Cleopatra speaks some of the most beautiful poetry ever created in the English language may not persuade the onlooker that the playwright has given the historical figure a fair shake. Then again, for older audiences, the lovers Antony and Cleopatra may serve us in the same exhilarating but tragic way that the title characters in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet affect a younger audience. The late Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton may have something to show us about that in their film version of Cleopatra. Also we can look forward to the classic film of Julius Caesar in which Richard Burton plays another key role. There will be two sessions to view and discuss the films, and two sessions to anatomize Shakespeare’s characterizations.

Instructor: Gay Smith

Four Tuesdays: 4:30–6 p.m., Butterfield Room, Wasch Center
September 13, 20, 27, October 4

Gay Smith
Gay Smith Professor of Theater emerita at Wesleyan