The Arts Past and Present - Aa100 Tma01

Part 1 Cleopatra
To what extent do Roman depictions of Cleopatra appear to have influenced how she has been depicted on TV and in film?

There are various different Roman depictions of Cleopatra, take Cassius Dio's invention of Octavian's speech that is in relation to Cleopatra and Anthony, from this written account, you will note that Cleopatra is described as having ‘alien and barbaric customs’ as well as having the ability to bewitch men, furthermore, it appears that Cleopatra lived a life of ‘royal luxury’ and was pampered daily, she was also likely to 'cavort in some ridiculous dance or cut some erotic caper' (Scott-Kilvert, 1987, in Fear, 2008, p. 27).

In the 1934 film Cleopatra was played by Claudette Colber, who portrayed her as a flirtatious and playful queen.   Throughout this film the clash of cultures and battle of the sexes was apparent; perhaps this could have been drawn from Octavian’s description of Cleopatra having the ability to bewitch men.   This film in particular was described as an epic romance which depicts her infatuation with Caesar and Mark Anthony (Trevor Fear, speaking in Cleopatra, 2008) which again could refer to her ability to bewitch.

Horace, Ode 1.37 depicts Cleopatra in a different light, being one of a fearless, drunken, mad queen who surrounded herself with flocks of diseased men but on the other hand she was a proud but humble woman (West, 2004, in Fear, 2008, p. 28). These two descriptions of Cleopatra taken from the poem are contradictory but nonetheless seem to depict her as a strong willed person.   Cleopatra was depicted by Xena, Warrior Princess as a manipulating sexual predator in the popular camp TV show of the same name.   This appears to reflect the writings in Horace, Ode stating she was a mad queen who surrounded herself with flocks of men.      

Cleopatra was depicted in numerous different lights ranging from ‘a glamorous Hollywood star to a depraved foreign tyrant’ (Fear, 2008, p. 24), these descriptions...