Part 01 – Cleopatra
How does the 1963 film present the relationship between Cleopatra and Julius Caesar?
How does this compare to earlier depictions of their relationship in the ancient sources you have met in your module?
When the words Julius Caesar and Cleopatra come up what do we think? A fearful leader of one of the greatest army’s history has ever seen and a young beauty who had Egypt in the palm of her hands. When these two great names in history crossed paths between 47 and 48 BC what would follow was a power struggle where ultimately neither would win.
In this essay I will be discussing the romanticised Hollywood version of Cleopatra and Julius Cesar’s relationship compared to the ancient texts and sources that I have discovered. I will be addressing the visual behaviour as seen in the film compared to the imaginative one that I have visualised through reading.
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She is not the sexually motivated whore as Caesar would of heard but in fact she is a powerful, driven intellect who knows what she wants for her and her people and seemingly knows what is good for Caesar.
(Reputations 2008, Warner, 1958, p.290) claims Caesar arranged Cleopatra and her brother to share the throne after being overcome by her charm. In the film Caesars main intention before laying eyes on Cleopatra is to unite the waring siblings and unify the throne. The film is filled with lavish costume changes, revealing costumes and grand entrances by Cleopatra. One of these entrances was her arrival in Rome, it would be hard to distinguish her arrival at Caesars palace to that of the modern day equivalent in Las Vegas. Horses, dancers, a dove-filled pyramid, burlesque performers, and Cleopatra bedecked in gold. Cleopatra’s styling is more a take on the 1960s rather than first century BC.
Cleopatra craved attention and in Caesar she had it. As Cleopatra tightened her grip on Caesar her arrival in Rome only made him more distant from the senate, Which would untimely lead to his demise. He became distant from the people, his naked ambition took over and he was eager to impress the goddess from Egypt, she urged him to be King, something the romans would never speak of. The films small details are what is fascinating, Caesar suffers from the falling sickness, so named by the roman historian Suetonius in what we know as an epileptic fit, but what we now know to a serious of strokes (History.com – Evan Andrews) Cleopatra, spying on him at the very beginning sees this and realises this as a god like trait and someone she could manipulate and ultimately carry his child.
Overall the filmmakers have really done their research, aside from the glorified entrances, lavish, expensive costumes and the odd bit of artistic license the film is an accurate portrait of Caesar and Cleopatra’s relationship
Reputations 2008 – in search of Cleopatra 1.4 – p17 –
Trevor Fear – Elaine Moohan –
Warner - 1958 - p.290
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