Stanley Weintraub is Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, and the author of numerous histories and biographies, including Silent Night (available from Plume).
Caesar and Cleopatraby George Bernard Shaw
Purchase one of 1st World Library's Classic Books and help support our free internet library of downloadable eBooks. 1st World Library-Literary Society is a non-profit educational organization. Visit us online at www.1stWorldLibrary.ORG - - 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 profess-sional dress; on the contrary, rather ostentatiously and arrogantly warlike, as valuing themselves on their military caste.
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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!
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.