Caesar and Cleopatra

Definition

Theater

  • A history play by George Bernard Shaw, first performedin 1906 in Berlin and subsequently in New York. Shaw presents Caesaras a powerful man who succumbs to the cunning wiles of the 16-year-oldCleopatra (a part written for Mrs Patrick Campbell,then in her early forties). In the plot, Cleopatra flees to the desertto escape Caesar. When they meet at the Sphinx she at first mistakeshim for an ordinary soldier. When the Roman Pothinus tries to warnCaesar that Cleopatra will betray him, she has him murdered. Caesareventually pacifies her by promising to bring the handsome Mark Antonyfrom Rome.

    Shaw, who was in his forties when he wrote the play, latersaid, "I think I was a trifle too young for the job, but itwas not bad for a juvenile effort." He wrote it while recoveringfrom an injured foot and broken arm on the Isle of Wight, often lyingon a clifftop with his crutches beside him to do so. The Sphinx scenewas suggested by a French picture he had seen 30 years before.

    He felt that Cleopatra was an easy part to play but not Caesar."Whoever can play the fourth act of it can play anything,"he noted. "Whoever can't, can play nothing."

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