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Characters

Cleopatra

Character Analysis

Cleopatra is the Queen of Egypt, lover to Antony, and former lover of both Julius Caesar and Pompey the Elder. She’s one of Shakespeare’s richest female characters, and can be used as a case study of both a woman in power, and a woman in love. We can use these two levels to analyze her. In love she is fierce, amorous (to say the least), and quick to get angry or be loving. Fickle in her affections, Cleopatra is passionate about all of her lovers, especially Antony. With her last act we can see her devotion to Antony, choosing to join him in death rather than live without him.

Cleopatra is equally interesting as a woman in power. She rules Egypt, and except for the times she betrays Antony (i.e., when she flirts with Thidias), she’s willing to say he conquered her rather than wooed her. It seems a gamble to maintain her power by pretending her power (not her heart) was momentarily weakened. She seems willing to blame her femininity for her worse points. Still, it can also be interpreted that she’s a woman of power when she decides on suicide. She does it out of pride – she’d rather die on the Nile, eaten by maggots, than become a token of Caesar’s power. Even as she dies she wishes her death to be interpreted as a victory against Caesar in a contest of power.

She is also particularly notable for her strong sexuality, and sexual relations with the world’s most powerful men. She is one of Shakespeare’s few female characters for whom sex is not a submission, but a testament to her own glory. As such, Cleopatra is symbolic of her country. As an earthy and sensual woman, Cleopatra represents the earthy and sensual Egyptian culture (that's at least how Shakespeare saw Egypt). Her death signals not only the death of her body, but also the end of the lifestyle in Egypt – one in which life is lived passionately, and connected to the natural world.

Cleopatra Timeline
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