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The Stereotypical Representation Of Cleopatra English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1108 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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It would be improvident and naive to assume that the perception of such a complex and controversial figure as Cleopatra would remain unchanged throughout the course of history. The stereotypical representation of Cleopatra as a dominant political leader, a destructive sexual aggressor and a timeless Egyptian Pharaoh seems to acquire different shades in the context of particular historical and cultural circumstances.

Let’s take a look at the depiction of Cleopatra in 1930 and 1960s based on the two movies about the timeless legend.

In both films there’s evidence of the society’s ever-growing fascination with the Orient – exotic backdrops, luxuriant outfits, spectacular scenes. The 1934’s off screen Cleopatra becomes a brand, a marketing opportunity for oriental jewellery, perfume and clothing. The emphasis of the movie is on not on Cleopatra, the strong and forceful leader, but rather on Cleopatra – the historical figure, who is first and for most the woman dealing with with the two great loves of her life – Caesar and Antony. “I’m no longer a queen. I’m a woman.” (Cleopatra, the movie, 1934)The advertising suggests the film was primarily positioned as an “epic romantic comedy” and was hardly concentrating on politics.

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This representation of Cleopatra was affected by the rise of the new woman image in America’s society in 20-30s. Women were fighting for better job opportunities and salaries to match those of men’s. With divorce rates rising and pre-marital relationships becoming more and more popular the film was on the verge of being branded immoral by those who opposed the rise.

In the 1960s Cleopatra’s story continues to evolve. The 1963s movie is set in a true Hollywood style with pompous decorations and costly extravagance.

However, and that’s where the main difference between the two films lies, Elizabeth Taylor portrays Cleopatra not only as an attractive and sophisticated woman. The emphasis here is rather on her role as a powerful and intellectual leader, who speaks several languages and uses torture in order to achieve her objectives. The flirtatious baby-faced Cleopatra of the 1930s is being replaced by a states woman, whose ultimate dream is to have a single world culture. The shift is mainly influenced by the political issues of the time – the formation of the United Nations and the teachings of the two great leaders J.F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

The off screen relationship of 1960s Cleopatra with her co star is also of a particular interest here. The romance between the two actors was regarded as drawing parallels between the past and the present of Cleopatra’s story.

In conclusion, let me once again want draw your attention to the fact that during the 20th century alone Cleopatra’s image has been constantly reassessed to fit the social and cultural changes of each particular era. We’ve seen images of her as a sexual predator, a woman in love , a manipulative leader. In fact, we’ve known it all along, you might say. Her story is timeless, the interpretations will be forever shifting, the legend lives on…

Fear, T. 2008, Reputations, Milton Keynes, Open University.

Assignment 1 Part 2.

Doctor Faustus.

In the following passage from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus we are presented with yet another attempt of our hero at repentance. Faustus seems distressed and not that confident in his decision to serve the evil after all. But is there a chance of turning back? Not for Faustus! His biggest mistake is in his inability to believe that God would still forgive him should he repent, to solidify his faith in Christianity and resist the sinful temptations.

There are certain aspects of the passage’s structure that Marlowe uses to show the character’s indecisiveness and inner struggle.

First and foremost the passage is yet again written in blank verse with a full use of iambic pentameter. Each line is constructed from five strong positively stressed sylable words, this rhythm is believed to follow the closest to human speech, particularly usefull when the verse does not rhyme.

It is also important to notice a few repetitions in the passage. The words repeated most are repent, pity and despair. The author is obviously trying to emphasise what’s on Faustus’ mind. Should he repent and carry on living in “deep despair” ( because the human knowledge is so limited) or fall for the “sweet pleasures” of demonic forces to keep himself contained?

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The passage opens up Faustus’ fears on becoming “damned”. The use of short nouns with a stress on the first syllable “poison, guns, halters and envenomed steel”(Marlowe, p49, 23), combined with the appropriate punctuation (commas in this case) make us believe he is genuinely scared not only of the whole idea of becoming a “spirit”, but also to be rejected by the human society he is still desperately trying to fit in and be part of. Some might argue that he is merely scared of the Devil and is not ready to face the consequences in case of his repentance.

At the end of the passage he yet again makes the wrong choice by refusing to repent and seeks Mephistopheles company . Interestingly, how throughout the play he addresses Mephistopheles as “my Mephistopheles” or “sweet Mephistopheles” prompting the audience to believe there was a homosexual connection in their relationship.

All of this combined makes a story that is hard to put down and a protagonist that at first you feel sorry for, and then change maybe to pity, it paints a picture of a man who is living in a fantasy world, where he has risen through the social ranks, and learned more then most men, to the end where he is no longer interested in mortal thoughts and deeds, but wishes for immortality.

The use of the language helps to portray Faustus as living in a fantasy world, and unable to differentiate between reality and imaginary, this is shown especially within the lines where he is talking to himself almost in a panic “Faustus thou art damned”(Marlowe, p.49. 22). cursing himself and his thoughts, only to talk himself out of it later on, finally submitting to Mephistopheles.

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, Act 2, Scene 3, II. 13-38; in John O’Connor (ed.)(2009), Doctor Faustus; the A text, Pearson Longman, P,49.


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