Friday, July 19, 2019

Elizabeth I and Cleopatra

 Elizabeth I is here portrayed among the goddesses
I think Cleopatra had more similarities with Mary Stuart than Elizabeth Tudor, but the article makes some interesting points. From the University College of London:
Perhaps second only to Tutankhamun in the who’s-who of Ancient Egypt Cleopatra VII is colloquially known as the Last Queen of Egypt. This is a very debatable epithet, whilst she is the last pharaoh of Egypt, she is also the last of Ptolemaic dynasty, a Greek family who ruled Egypt following Alexander’s conquest in 332 BC. Her death, 12th August 30 BC, is chronicled by Plutarch, mentioned by Virgil and exonerated by Horace[1],  she is so renowned her death is sometimes used to denote the end of the Hellenistic era.

Queen Elizabeth, who died 3 years prior to this play’s performance, is quite a similar character. With a slightly dubious claim to the throne, her death in 1603 heralded the end of the Tudor rule.  Following the establishment of the Church of England in the 1530’s and the sweeping massacres of Catholics and Protestants alike England had a Catholic Scottish King, James I. For years England had been at war with both Scots and Catholics, and now had that exact ilk on their throne.

Cleopatra faced similar regency problems;  she may have been an originally Greek Queen, but she was barring the advancing Roman Empire from Romanising her country and herself. Here the Queens differ, Elizabeth went on the offence, striking out at Catholic enemies, such as Spain with her famous victory in 1588. Cleopatra had nowhere near the allies nor resources to defeat her foe (indeed she lost her major naval incursion at Actium), so she had to make them [allies].

Allying herself to Caesar and then Mark Anthony she coerced armies and treaties out of them to protect her beloved Egypt. Plutarch, writing in the 1st century AD, describes Mark and Cleopatra’s first encounter as:
“Venus was come to revel with Bacchus for the good of Asia” (Lives III.XXVI.3)
Cleopatra is represented as the Roman goddess of love and founder of Rome, great praise for an Egyptian Queen who defied them. (Read more.)

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