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Caesar and Cleopatra

Caesar and Cleopatra

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by George Bernard Shaw

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An Excerpt from the book-


An October night on the Syrian border of Egypt towards the end of
the XXXIII Dynasty, in the year 706 by Roman computation, afterwards
reckoned by Christian computation as 48 B.C. A great radiance of silver
fire, the dawn of a moonlit night, is rising in the east. The stars
and the cloudless sky are our


An Excerpt from the book-


An October night on the Syrian border of Egypt towards the end of
the XXXIII Dynasty, in the year 706 by Roman computation, afterwards
reckoned by Christian computation as 48 B.C. A great radiance of silver
fire, the dawn of a moonlit night, is rising in the east. The stars
and the cloudless sky are our own contemporaries, nineteen and a half
centuries younger than we know them; but you would not guess that from
their appearance. Below them are two notable drawbacks of civilization:
a palace, and soldiers. The palace, an old, low, Syrian building of
whitened mud, is not so ugly as Buckingham Palace; and the officers in
the courtyard are more highly civilized than modern English officers:
for example, they do not dig up the corpses of their dead enemies and
mutilate them, as we dug up Cromwell and the Mahdi. They are in two
groups: one intent on the gambling of their captain Belzanor, a warrior
of fifty, who, with his spear on the ground beside his knee, is stooping
to throw dice with a sly-looking young Persian recruit; the other
gathered about a guardsman who has just finished telling a naughty
story (still current in English barracks) at which they are laughing
uproariously. They are about a dozen in number, all highly aristocratic
young Egyptian guardsmen, handsomely equipped with weapons and armor,
very unEnglish in point of not being ashamed of and uncomfortable in
their professional dress; on the contrary, rather ostentatiously and
arrogantly warlike, as valuing themselves on their military caste.

Belzanor is a typical veteran, tough and wilful; prompt, capable and
crafty where brute force will serve; helpless and boyish when it
will not: an effective sergeant, an incompetent general, a deplorable
dictator. Would, if influentially connected, be employed in the two last
capacities by a modern European State on the strength of his success
in the first. Is rather to be pitied just now in view of the fact that
Julius Caesar is invading his country. Not knowing this, is intent on
his game with the Persian, whom, as a foreigner, he considers quite
capable of cheating him.

His subalterns are mostly handsome young fellows whose interest in
the game and the story symbolizes with tolerable completeness the main
interests in life of which they are conscious. Their spears are leaning
against the walls, or lying on the ground ready to their hands. The
corner of the courtyard forms a triangle of which one side is the front
of the palace, with a doorway, the other a wall with a gateway. The
storytellers are on the palace side: the gamblers, on the gateway side.
Close to the gateway, against the wall, is a stone block high enough
to enable a Nubian sentinel, standing on it, to look over the wall. The
yard is lighted by a torch stuck in the wall. As the laughter from the
group round the storyteller dies away, the kneeling Persian, winning the
throw, snatches up the stake from the ground.

BELZANOR. By Apis, Persian, thy gods are good to thee.

THE PERSIAN. Try yet again, O captain. Double or quits!

BELZANOR. No more. I am not in the vein.

THE SENTINEL (poising his javelin as he peers over the wall). Stand. Who
goes there?

They all start, listening. A strange voice replies from without.

VOICE. The bearer of evil tidings.

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Caesar and Cleopatra 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this play, Julius Caesar travels to Egypt and encounters a young and immature Cleopatra. The play tells the story of how Caesar acts as a mentor to Cleopatra, guiding and shaping her into the powerful Queen of Egypt. Unlike other versions of Caesar and Cleopatra in history, Shaw adapts them for his piece. Caesar is portrayed in Shaw's image and untrue to what history may tell, he did not have a sexual relationship with Cleopatra; this was more of a father-daughter relationship. Cleopatra was also portrayed as not being a seductress, which is a common theme for her in other works of literature and films. I liked this play; it has some subtle humor, which was enjoyable. I have also read William Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar', and it was interesting to see the variations in the characters of Caesar. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar', or anyone who maybe at all inerested in this book. It was an easy read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Julius Caesar is a legendary figure of power that almost all of us are familiar with, and Shaw gives us his perspective of what Caesar was like in his play, 'Caesar and Cleopatra'. In this work, Caesar becomes a mouthpiece for Shaw's viewpoints, which in many ways contradicts popular beliefs of Caesar's role as a ruler, his ambition, and his relationship to Cleopatra. Many sources within classical literature depict Caesar as an ambitious, power-hungry ruler that had the potential to become a tyrant. His romantic relationship with Cleopatra has been portrayed in numerous books, articles, and movies for its entertainment value and sex appeal. Shaw portrays Caesar differently. He is seen as wise and rules for the good of Rome, rather than for personal ambition. He comes out as successful, focusing on his strengths and not his downfall. His relationship with Cleopatra is seen more as a father-daughter relationship, rather than one as a lover. He possesses values that contrast with those of other leaders in his time. We can see that Caesar is different and compare the qualities that he possesses with those of other rulers to determine what qualities truly make a good leader. These differences are emphasized, in such a way that Caesar and other Roman leaders seem to come from two different worlds. Caesar sees the misuse of power by other rulers, where they will give way to bribes and participate in war to obtain greater influence and power. Caesar pokes fun at some of the actions and behaviors of the other Romans, which brings humor and spice to the novel. Cleopatra does not seduce or influence Caesar; she is shown to be very naive. Caesar is not influenced by her, but rather acts more as a mentor, trying to shape her and help her to grow. If you have read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar and Cleopatra is a must-read. It will give you a different perspective of Caesar's character in a comical, enjoyable manner. I enjoyed this play immensely. It not only provided a new view of Caesar, but allowed me to explore my values and viewpoints of fair and just leadership.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago