The Cleopatra-Complex

Hello there!

So, just to refresh your or more realistically my memory, here’s the “Barge scene” from Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra.

Enobarbus: I will tell you. The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne, Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold; Purple the sails, and so perfumed that The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver, Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made The water which they beat to follow faster, As amorous of their strokes. For her own person, It beggar’d all description: she did lie In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue, O’erpicturing that Venus where we see The fancy outwork nature: on each side her Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids, With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool, And what they undid did. – See more at:

Cleopatra’s sensuality comes from her wealth.  Depending on who you believe, she was not what we would consider beautiful.  In re-thinking Cleopatra (herein referred to as “Cleo”), I wondered about her use of her female sexuality.

Now, I am sorry to burst your romantic bubble, but Cleo was an ambitious politician.  The problem was that she was a woman in a man’s world.  I believe she aligned herself with powerful men to gain territory and lands.

I wrote an essay on this play, so you’ll just have to take my word on this – I can’t remember what source it is from, but I read that she traveled to Herod’s province to collect taxes from him.  He wanted to have her killed, but his advisors told him this would be a very bad move.  Antony would have Herod’s head – literally!

There may have been some love or affection, but I’m still kind of doubtful.  I know what you’re thinking.  Shakespeare’s scene is fictitious.  Maybe not.  Remember Plutarch?  He wrote the original scene and claimed to have inside information.  Shakespeare really did just ‘lift’ Plutarch’s words off of the page. says, “According to the story recorded by Plutarch (and later dramatized famously by William Shakespeare), Cleopatra sailed to Tarsus in an elaborate ship, dressed in the robes of Isis. Antony, who associated himself with the Greek deity Dionysus, was seduced by her charms. He agreed to protect Egypt and Cleopatra’s crown, pledging support for the removal of her younger sister and rival Arsinoe, then in exile.”

After all, what’s a girl to do around 35 BC?  Sure she was a Queen, but she essentially had her sister killed because she considered baby sis’ a threat to the crown.

So, what does all of this have to do with singleness? I don’t even know anymore!

Oh right, Cleo’s use of her feminine wiles to get Caesar and then Antony.  This whole political thing confuses matters.  Murder.  Wars.  Alliances.  Political struggles. More Murder. Suicide.

Cleo’s love life makes things seem really complicated, doesn’t it?  Aren’t you glad you live in the year 2013AD where things are much more simple?

Oh yeah, On, I learned that Brutus and Cassius were against Antony and the Gang.  Cleo lent her support to Antony.  Good move.  They defeated Brutus and Cassius.  Always nice to be on the winning side.

This newfound information makes my fictitious dialogue from the last post mute.  I hate when that happens… Oh well, let’s consider it fiction.  Or, as I prophetically deemed it, “nonsense”.

Anyway, I know I am cynical about the real “love story” of Antony &  Cleo, but apparently the guy really did kill himself when he thought Cleo had killed herself.  ( Must have been true love.  My sincere apologies to the romantics out there…

Question:  Why does our culture insist upon turning ugly-messy-tragedies into flowery-lovey-romance?



About Elizabeth Potvin

Elizabeth was born in Ottawa, Ontario Canada. Growing up on a dairy farm gave her plenty of opportunity to develop an imagination, and an appreciation for cheese. Currently, Elizabeth is seeking representation for a screenplay called, Cornelia Mews and the Apostle's Scrolls, an action adventure set in Turkey. She is also working on a second project called, The Great Divorce, about a woman, who discovers her husband is a descendant of the infamous Dunrobinson clan! Will their marriage survive a 400-year old massacre?