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Shakespeare's Shavian Cleopatra

Shakespeare's Shavian Cleopatra The differences between Shakespeare's portrayal of Cleopatra and Shaw's portrayal of Cleopatra could easily be dismissed by the disparity in their ages: Shaw writes of a sixteen-year-old Cleopatra, whereas Shakespeare picks up her story much later. Yet Shaw himself makes it perfectly clear in his notes to the play that the contrasting characterizations are much more than simply a function of age: The childishness I have ascribed to [Cleopatra], as far as it is childishness of character and not lack of experience, is not a matter of years. It may be observed in our own climate at the present day in many women of fifty. It is a mistake to suppose that the difference between wisdom and folly has anything to do with the difference between physical age and physical youth.1 Shaw's Cleopatra is not simply a younger, more immature version of Shakespeare's, for the playwright himself suggests that he could have given his queen a wisdom that surpasses her sixteen years. Instead, Shaw creates his Cleopatra as a sort of precursor to Shakespeare's.2 Though at times, in his contempt for late-Victorian bardolatry, Shaw attempts to excise or improve on Shakespearean elements in his characterization of Julius Caesar, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies Penn State University Press

Shakespeare's Shavian Cleopatra

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2007 The Pennsylvania State University. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1529-1480
Publisher site
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Abstract

The differences between Shakespeare's portrayal of Cleopatra and Shaw's portrayal of Cleopatra could easily be dismissed by the disparity in their ages: Shaw writes of a sixteen-year-old Cleopatra, whereas Shakespeare picks up her story much later. Yet Shaw himself makes it perfectly clear in his notes to the play that the contrasting characterizations are much more than simply a function of age: The childishness I have ascribed to [Cleopatra], as far as it is childishness of character and not lack of experience, is not a matter of years. It may be observed in our own climate at the present day in many women of fifty. It is a mistake to suppose that the difference between wisdom and folly has anything to do with the difference between physical age and physical youth.1 Shaw's Cleopatra is not simply a younger, more immature version of Shakespeare's, for the playwright himself suggests that he could have given his queen a wisdom that surpasses her sixteen years. Instead, Shaw creates his Cleopatra as a sort of precursor to Shakespeare's.2 Though at times, in his contempt for late-Victorian bardolatry, Shaw attempts to excise or improve on Shakespearean elements in his characterization of Julius Caesar,

Journal

SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw StudiesPenn State University Press

Published: Oct 22, 2007

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