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George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Set in Egypt, Caesar and Cleopatra, is a drama in wh George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Set in Egypt, Caesar and Cleopatra, is a drama in which the 50-year-old Roman general meets the childish young Queen and exerts a fatherly influence on her. The subject is treated in modern terms, as the author professed a belief that there has been no perceptible progress in civilization since 53 B. C.


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George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Set in Egypt, Caesar and Cleopatra, is a drama in wh George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin in 1856. Before becoming a playwright he wrote music and literary criticism. Shaw used his writing to attack social problems such as education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was particularly conscious of the exploitation of the working class. Set in Egypt, Caesar and Cleopatra, is a drama in which the 50-year-old Roman general meets the childish young Queen and exerts a fatherly influence on her. The subject is treated in modern terms, as the author professed a belief that there has been no perceptible progress in civilization since 53 B. C.

30 review for Caesar and Cleopatra (eBook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Caesar and Cleopatra is a play of vivid pictures and superb effects: in the desert at night an old Roman general speaks to a small Sphinx, oblivious to the child-woman asleep between its paws; the child-woman Cleopatra chooses the old general as her protector, against Caesar “who eats children,” not realizing, until the Romans troops begin shouting “Hail Caesar” that her old general and Caesar are one in the same; Caesar arming himself for battle while the Library of Alexandria is burning in the Caesar and Cleopatra is a play of vivid pictures and superb effects: in the desert at night an old Roman general speaks to a small Sphinx, oblivious to the child-woman asleep between its paws; the child-woman Cleopatra chooses the old general as her protector, against Caesar “who eats children,” not realizing, until the Romans troops begin shouting “Hail Caesar” that her old general and Caesar are one in the same; Caesar arming himself for battle while the Library of Alexandria is burning in the background; Cleopatra in a carpet, unrolled and revealed to a surprisingly indifferent Caesar; Caesar and Cleopatra swimming to safety; a female assassin, with her throat cut, crumpled before an altar, is disclosed when a curtain is pulled back; amid the splendor of Caesar’s farewell procession, Cleopatra and her women appear, dressed in black. It possesses great dialogue and believable characters too. Shaw would tolerate no “thees and thous” in his historical plays, for he believed that the people of past ages were pretty much like ourselves, no better or worse. The Sicilian noblemen Apollodorus resembles a fin de siecle poet, Rufio is a typical gruff old campaigner, Cleopatra’s servant Ftatateeta is a fiercely loyal governess, and Caesar’s secretary Britannus already embodies the smug certainties and blindspots of a late 19th century Englishman. Caesar and Cleopatra is also great because—like the later Pygmalion—it shows us a great teacher and an apt pupil at work. Even as a child—or perhaps because she is a child—Cleopatra shows an appetite for violence and revenge. Caesar senses she has the capacity to be a great ruler, and takes pains to teach her that mercy and clemency are much more effective in the long run. Unlike Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Shaw’s play is not about passion but politics. I think, though, that the principal reason why this play is great is because it gives us the convincing portrait of a great man in the person of Caesar. Childlike, but without a child’s malice, detached yet interested in everything, his comprehensive sympathies and wide-ranging intellect are open to the whole world, and because of this the world rarely gets the best of him. I will conclude with an excerpt in which Cleopatra tells Caesar she ordered the death of the disloyal minister Pothinus, and Caesar reacts to what Cleopatra has told him. CAESAR. What has happened to Pothinus? I set him free, here, not half an hour ago. Did they not pass him out? LUCIUS. Ay, through the gallery arch sixty feet above ground, with three inches of steel in his ribs. He is as dead as Pompey. We are quits now, as to killing—you and I. CAESAR. (shocked). Assassinated!—our prisoner, our guest! (He turns reproachfully on Rufio) Rufio— RUFIO (emphatically—anticipating the question). Whoever did it was a wise man and a friend of yours (Cleopatra is qreatly emboldened); but none of US had a hand in it. So it is no use to frown at me. (Caesar turns and looks at Cleopatra.) CLEOPATRA (violently—rising). He was slain by order of the Queen of Egypt. I am not Julius Caesar the dreamer, who allows every slave to insult him. Rufio has said I did well: now the others shall judge me too. (She turns to the others.) This Pothinus sought to make me conspire with him to betray Caesar to Achillas and Ptolemy. I refused; and he cursed me and came privily to Caesar to accuse me of his own treachery. I caught him in the act; and he insulted me—ME, the Queen! To my face. Caesar would not revenge me: he spoke him fair and set him free. Was I right to avenge myself? Speak, Lucius. LUCIUS. I do not gainsay it. But you will get little thanks from Caesar for it... CLEOPATRA (passionately). I will be judged by your very slave, Caesar. Britannus: speak. Was I wrong? BRITANNUS. Were treachery, falsehood, and disloyalty left unpunished, society must become like an arena full of wild beasts, tearing one another to pieces. Caesar is in the wrong. CAESAR (with quiet bitterness). And so the verdict is against me, it seems. CLEOPATRA (vehemently). Listen to me, Caesar. If one man in all Alexandria can be found to say that I did wrong, I swear to have myself crucified on the door of the palace by my own slaves. CAESAR. If one man in all the world can be found, now or forever, to know that you did wrong, that man will have either to conquer the world as I have, or be crucified by it. (The uproar in the streets again reaches them.) Do you hear? These knockers at your gate are also believers in vengeance and in stabbing. You have slain their leader: it is right that they shall slay you. If you doubt it, ask your four counselors here. And then in the name of that RIGHT (He emphasizes the word with great scorn.) shall I not slay them for murdering their Queen, and be slain in my turn by their countrymen as the invader of their fatherland? Can Rome do less then than slay these slayers too, to show the world how Rome avenges her sons and her honor? And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Lovely play but I was at a loss to imagine a successful staging. This is vast and epic while insistently self aware, emplacing it’s own sense of history upon a lineage we believe to know from another play by that one guy. The characterization of Cleopatra as a petulant teen was remarkable—especially in contrast to a stolid weariness from Julius Caesar. The role of vengeance as a historical engine is explored as is the all too human notions of sovereignty. I should read more Shaw.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Cleopatra can't arrange a meeting with Caesar, so she rolls herself up in a large rug, and has herself delivered as a present. Security must have been really basic in those days. There was a period when I was working for a boss who was never available during office hours. Either he wasn't there at all, or he was busy talking to someone else. People used to refer to the above episode quite frequently, and several of the female employees said they were considering having themselves delivered in ru Cleopatra can't arrange a meeting with Caesar, so she rolls herself up in a large rug, and has herself delivered as a present. Security must have been really basic in those days. There was a period when I was working for a boss who was never available during office hours. Either he wasn't there at all, or he was busy talking to someone else. People used to refer to the above episode quite frequently, and several of the female employees said they were considering having themselves delivered in rugs. I'd love to be able to say that one of them actually followed through on it, but as far as I'm aware it never got beyond the planning stage. Pity!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Delightful play on the interaction between J. Caesar, here presented by Shaw as a wise avuncular idealist, and Cleopatra, the giggly teenage queen of Egypt. Caesar teaches her to be a real queen and to use her power wisely. Shaw's wit was much in evidence throughout. For comparison I read the text at the same time as I viewed the 1945 Rains/Leigh movie. The script kept the dialogue nearly intact. I regretted the deletion of the stage directions from the movie; I thought them equally as clever as Delightful play on the interaction between J. Caesar, here presented by Shaw as a wise avuncular idealist, and Cleopatra, the giggly teenage queen of Egypt. Caesar teaches her to be a real queen and to use her power wisely. Shaw's wit was much in evidence throughout. For comparison I read the text at the same time as I viewed the 1945 Rains/Leigh movie. The script kept the dialogue nearly intact. I regretted the deletion of the stage directions from the movie; I thought them equally as clever as the dialogue, with Shaw's sardonicism. This is one not to be missed, a double treat if you read/view it as I did.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    Bernard Shaw's funny, sad prequel to Shakespeare.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    Shaw's masterpiece 2 August 2014 The problem I face when I approach this play is that there is so much in it I simply do not know where to start. There is the character of Julius Caesar that Shaw seems to capture perfectly, from the wise and kind leader to the man who would repetitively show mercy to his enemies: which resulted in his own destruction. There is also the idea of the new empire meeting the old empire, and the elder statesman meeting the child queen and the interaction between the tw Shaw's masterpiece 2 August 2014 The problem I face when I approach this play is that there is so much in it I simply do not know where to start. There is the character of Julius Caesar that Shaw seems to capture perfectly, from the wise and kind leader to the man who would repetitively show mercy to his enemies: which resulted in his own destruction. There is also the idea of the new empire meeting the old empire, and the elder statesman meeting the child queen and the interaction between the two. Then there is a beautiful scene at the baby sphinx where Caesar and Cleopatra first meet, and while Caesar is aware of who he is talking to, Cleopatra is not. First, though, I should mention that Hollywood turned this play into a very faithful movie, though it has since been taken down from Youtube due to copyright infringements (though I did get to see it before they did so). Anyway, the first thing that struck me was the interplay between Julius Caesar and Queen Cleopatra: it is nothing short of brilliant. They are both in effect monarchs, but their view of political leadership is radically different. Cleopatra comes from the old school where the monarch does not work and has everything done for her, whereas Caesar is more of a modern monarch in that he works and he takes his position seriously. Secondly, Cleopatra is a queen and she is not afraid to let people know that she is the queen, however Caesar never lets on that he is a monarch, and in fact when he was offered the crown he refused it because while he is a leader, a general, and a statesman, he does not want to be known as a monarch, or a king. In many ways this was the nature of the Roman Empire, in that it is portrayed as being a modern empire, an empire where everybody pulls their weight and works hard – it was a nation of farmers and soldiers, and the idea of the leader living in luxury and living off the hard work of others is anathema. This is clearly shown in the banquet scene where Caesar rebukes Cleopatra for the exotic food that is being brought before him. This is also shown where Cleopatra is shocked that Caesar, a leader, does not sleep in a luxurious bed, but rather in a cot in a tent, and even then, he does not sleep because he is up all night working. Thus what we see here is a clash of kingdoms; a clash of the old and the new. As I was reading this play it seemed to be reflective of England's occupation of India (despite that having occurred around a century prior to the play being written, but having it reflective of England and Egypt in Shaw's time simply did not seem to work because at that time Egypt simply did not come across as an exotic kingdom in its death throes). What we have is the modern empire coming into conflict with the empire that is still caught up in its traditional past. In another sense it could be reflective of England and China, especially with the boy emperor, who I believe was emperor of China around that time. Still, the image of Caesar as the noble and enlightened leader was not very reflective of the leadership of England of Shaw's day. It is interesting that we have Caesar as the elder statesman of the young empire and Cleopatra as the girl monarch of the old empire. It seems to be reflective of the old empire being so caught up in tradition that it is no longer able to move forward, and as such it is not longer able to progress and grow, and as such is left with the mind of a child. It is even suggestive that when a child takes the throne, and the child is immature, then the kingdom itself is in trouble. However, with Rome we have the new empire, despite it being around seven hundred years old at that time (Egypt was much older though, around two and a half thousand years). However, the age of Rome is irrelevant because we have a new Rome that is maturing, and expanding, and despite still being embroiled in civil war (or on the verge on a new civil war) the empire had still to reach its height. This was not the case with Britain in 1898 because while it was still at its height and its destruction was inconceivable, with the rise of the other industrial powers, and Britain's downfall was not far off.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Halima

    I used to have two pets. I called the male Caesar and the female Cleopatra. Mom started to laugh when I told her what I wanted to call them and when I asked her why she said I reminded her of a good book. About 8 years later, I'm dying to find mom's copy of the book because she recommended it to me a few weeks ago - I think she lost it, though. PS: the pets were geese and they had 11 children and we had to give them away. I miss them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    Wow. What a delightful first experience with Shaw. Hilarious and moving and puzzling, and, to my delight, it feels incomplete without seeing it in performance (lucky me, I get to see it at the American Shakespeare Center in a few days). Approaching this play in conversation with Shakespeare's Roman plays in mind, then, I was perhaps extra keyed in to a concern that Shaw himself raises in the play's notes: "whether our world has not been wrong in its moral theory for the last 2,500 years or so" wh Wow. What a delightful first experience with Shaw. Hilarious and moving and puzzling, and, to my delight, it feels incomplete without seeing it in performance (lucky me, I get to see it at the American Shakespeare Center in a few days). Approaching this play in conversation with Shakespeare's Roman plays in mind, then, I was perhaps extra keyed in to a concern that Shaw himself raises in the play's notes: "whether our world has not been wrong in its moral theory for the last 2,500 years or so" when it comes to the construction of enormous figures at the center of the Western identity. Shaw was referring to his deliberately (sort of) counterintuitive depiction of Caesar as a rather laid-back, frequently hilarious domineer, certainly a tactical genius but decidedly not in the vein of Caesar's own self-styling in De Bello Gallico and De Bello Civili. When you see a bust of Caesar in a stuffy Yale University library, it is probably not meant to be Shaw's Caesar. So it feels, to me, more in the vein of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra than Julius Caesar. To me, JC's characters are stand-ins for certain political/philosophical principles, manifested in both the ideas they articulate and in the rhetorical structures they use to do so. A&C, on the other hand, abounds in contradictions, self-doubt, fickleness--and I think in that later play, Shakespeare discovered that by making his characters contain multitudes, in some ways making them more like ordinary people (who are nevertheless participants in extraordinary events), he actually lent them greater tragic/dramatic stature. I tend to find Cleopatra's "His legs bestrid the ocean [etc.]" more impactful and believable than Cassius' "Like a Colossus, and we petty men / Walk under his huge legs." Anyway, I think that is partly what Shaw is up to here, and he keys us in to that fact with the prologue, so I may simply be playing into his hands by writing all of this. I am delighted to come away from this play with questions that I feel cannot bed answered by the text alone: Are we to sincerely believe that Caesar’s sheer force of personality “made a woman of [Cleopatra],” or is this simply what Caesar himself would like to believe? Is Shaw's Caesar really a once-in-a-civilization genius, or does he simply have extremely good luck? Only performance will tell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kyc

    A disappointment. Full of bathos and--as usual with Shaw--his Caesar is so lucid, mouthing mots justes every now and then, that his character seems to brook no contradiction. Cleopatra as a kittenish awestricken teenager, and it's hard to see the historical Cleopatra who manipulated two Roman generals sexually and politically as this timid, bathetic character. Shaw actually hinted that his play is "better than Shakespear". He probably needed to reread "Antony and Cleopatra", and do a reality che A disappointment. Full of bathos and--as usual with Shaw--his Caesar is so lucid, mouthing mots justes every now and then, that his character seems to brook no contradiction. Cleopatra as a kittenish awestricken teenager, and it's hard to see the historical Cleopatra who manipulated two Roman generals sexually and politically as this timid, bathetic character. Shaw actually hinted that his play is "better than Shakespear". He probably needed to reread "Antony and Cleopatra", and do a reality check on his own egomania.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Shaw’s retelling of Caesar and Cleopatra demonstrates admirably both Shaw’s philosophy, as well as showcases his tremendous gifts as a storyteller. Shaw depicts Cleopatra as a woman who, out of military necessity, appeals to Caesar. Caesar is depicted as a Realist, and a man of action who values good government and unsentimentality. Caesar is depicted as a man without vengeance and little emotion. He is fair and hard…and opportunistic. He destroys evidence that would have Septimius executed, yet Shaw’s retelling of Caesar and Cleopatra demonstrates admirably both Shaw’s philosophy, as well as showcases his tremendous gifts as a storyteller. Shaw depicts Cleopatra as a woman who, out of military necessity, appeals to Caesar. Caesar is depicted as a Realist, and a man of action who values good government and unsentimentality. Caesar is depicted as a man without vengeance and little emotion. He is fair and hard…and opportunistic. He destroys evidence that would have Septimius executed, yet orders the expedient murder of Cleopatra’s nurse. There are great lines throughout. Caesar is wonderfully sarcastic when addressing Theodotus. In response to Theodotus answering Caesar’s question about his role, Caesar says, “You teach men how to be kings, Theodotus. That is very clever of you.” (36) Another great line is APOLLODORUS: “Majesty: when a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.” (64) On taxes one can see Shaw’s approach and beliefs in government: “POTHINUS (bitterly): Is it possible that Caesar, the conqueror of the world, has time to occupy himself with such a trifle as our taxes? CAESAR: My friend: taxes are the chief business of a conqueror of the world.” (38) Caesar later states to Pothinus, “when a man has anything to tell in this world, the difficulty is not to make him tell it, but to prevent him from telling it too often.” (91) Caesar speaks these fateful words at the end of the play. “And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand.” (102) Too true, albeit I believe Shaw had a different view of how to achieve that then most 21st readers are likely to be comfortable with.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Caesar is represented here as a truly original man. Great because he sees no value in flattery. He has his servants be totally honest with him, without negative repercussions for criticism. He acts to his own advantage every time, whether or not such acts appear honorable. He forms no attachments beyond the friendliness a genial person might give to a strange child or a dog. Cleopatra appears here as a spoiled sixteen year old, in many ways less mature than a sixteen year old of our day, because Caesar is represented here as a truly original man. Great because he sees no value in flattery. He has his servants be totally honest with him, without negative repercussions for criticism. He acts to his own advantage every time, whether or not such acts appear honorable. He forms no attachments beyond the friendliness a genial person might give to a strange child or a dog. Cleopatra appears here as a spoiled sixteen year old, in many ways less mature than a sixteen year old of our day, because her life has been pampered and sheltered, and because of the style of rule in which she has been brought up. Caesar's servant Brittannus, a slave from the conquered British isles, provides comedy when we realized that civilization as we know it differs not at all from that of two thousand years ago. We have the same chauvinism in favor of our own culture as people have had since time immemorial. This play requires opulent sets, including a Sphinx, and has a large cast, and numerous meaty roles.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    This play is atrocious and I'm surprised more people do not feel vitriolic towards it. First of all, I greatly disliked that the author chose to use real historical people to bitterly gripe about England. A story/play about real people from 2,000 years prior is just not the place to be moaning and groaning about current (for him) jolly ol' England. I realize that this was supposed to be some sort of badly done satire, but it just does not work for me. Second of all (but first in my heart), Shaw's This play is atrocious and I'm surprised more people do not feel vitriolic towards it. First of all, I greatly disliked that the author chose to use real historical people to bitterly gripe about England. A story/play about real people from 2,000 years prior is just not the place to be moaning and groaning about current (for him) jolly ol' England. I realize that this was supposed to be some sort of badly done satire, but it just does not work for me. Second of all (but first in my heart), Shaw's Cleopatra is an utter joke. I've read plenty of HF and NF works on Cleopatra and I don't think I have seen anyone represent Cleopatra so badly. Shaw's Cleopatra is idiotic, immature, whiny, gullible and the list goes on. I was appalled. I also could not help but picture, due to the voice of the narrator, Caesar as Ebenezer Scrooge. Needless to say, griping about "current" England, a nitwit Cleopatra and a Scrooge Caesar makes for a really freaking awful attempt at anything resembling enjoyable literature for this reader.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Interesting take on Cleopatra. My favorite parts, though, were in the stage directions and commentary. For example, in setting the scene of the first act (my underlining of bits I liked): "A great radiance of silver fire, the dawn of a moonlit night, is rising in the east. The stars and the cloudless sky are our own contemporaries, nineteen and a half centuries younger than we know them; but you would not guess that from their appearance. Below them are two notable drawbacks of civilization: a pa Interesting take on Cleopatra. My favorite parts, though, were in the stage directions and commentary. For example, in setting the scene of the first act (my underlining of bits I liked): "A great radiance of silver fire, the dawn of a moonlit night, is rising in the east. The stars and the cloudless sky are our own contemporaries, nineteen and a half centuries younger than we know them; but you would not guess that from their appearance. Below them are two notable drawbacks of civilization: a palace, and soldiers." and a bit later: "Belzanor is a typical veteran, tough and wilful; prompt, capable and crafty where brute force will serve; helpless and boyish when it will not: an effective sergeant, an incompetent general, a deplorable dictator. Would, if influentially connected, be employed in the two last capacities by a modern European State on the strength of his success in the first. Is rather to be pitied just now in view of the fact that Julius Caesar is invading his country."

  14. 4 out of 5

    J. Alfred

    A prologue of sorts for Shakespeare's "Anthony and Cleopatra", it does go a long way toward introducing that play. Also a good place for Shaw to show how, for him, people don't need God, because, like Caesar, some men are basically gods already. Some unintentional irony in that, as he used a bunch of Christlike qualities and allusions for Caesar to drive his point home, he has Caesar using the words of Christ to claim legitimacy; sometimes the same words that Christ would use a few generations l A prologue of sorts for Shakespeare's "Anthony and Cleopatra", it does go a long way toward introducing that play. Also a good place for Shaw to show how, for him, people don't need God, because, like Caesar, some men are basically gods already. Some unintentional irony in that, as he used a bunch of Christlike qualities and allusions for Caesar to drive his point home, he has Caesar using the words of Christ to claim legitimacy; sometimes the same words that Christ would use a few generations later to challenge Caesar's authority. Anyway, the characters and the story are pretty great. They remind me of Terry Pratchett at his best. In the forward to the play, the question "Better than Shakespeare?" was written in bold, obnoxious print. It was an enjoyable play, and it gave some real humanitarian depth to Cleopatra's character, but heck, give me "Give me my robe, put on my crown/ I have immortal longings in me" any day.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Collin

    I have never read a more weak, pathetic Cleopatra in my life. I mean, I know Cleopatra probably wasn't Super Duper BA Superwoman we all are used to thinking of her, but... come on! Give her a little credit! She read like a brainless twelve-year-old brat! Did she have a different reputation in the late 1800s than she does now? Or did Shaw just... really want a crying, sighing, lovelorn wimp as his second main character? I know Shaw can write better women characters, so I don't blame the times; it' I have never read a more weak, pathetic Cleopatra in my life. I mean, I know Cleopatra probably wasn't Super Duper BA Superwoman we all are used to thinking of her, but... come on! Give her a little credit! She read like a brainless twelve-year-old brat! Did she have a different reputation in the late 1800s than she does now? Or did Shaw just... really want a crying, sighing, lovelorn wimp as his second main character? I know Shaw can write better women characters, so I don't blame the times; it's just... a really lame way to write Cleopatra. Caesar was over-glorified, practically martyred before he was dead. I usually like Shaw's dialogue but this one was just... difficult to get through. When you check the remaining page count every five pages, something's wrong. Wanted to like it, but there was too much against it. Maybe the Vivien Leigh movie is better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Caesar and Cleopatra was quite well-written, full of good quotes and characterization, and plenty of cleverness and wit. It is bad because of its moral core. It is one more thing to add to the list of art in the spirit of Triumph of the Will: high quality propaganda for a really nasty mindset, just like Gone with the Wind and Bonfire of the Vanities. The author, George Bernard Shaw, combines a caustic hatred of his own society with a gushing admiration of antiquity. Either one of these things alo Caesar and Cleopatra was quite well-written, full of good quotes and characterization, and plenty of cleverness and wit. It is bad because of its moral core. It is one more thing to add to the list of art in the spirit of Triumph of the Will: high quality propaganda for a really nasty mindset, just like Gone with the Wind and Bonfire of the Vanities. The author, George Bernard Shaw, combines a caustic hatred of his own society with a gushing admiration of antiquity. Either one of these things alone is bad enough, but the two of them together is truly obnoxious. He seems mainly motivated by a Nietzschen morality. Here is what he says in the notes at the end of the play: Hence, in order to produce an impression of complete disinterestedness and magnanimity, he has only to act with entire selfishness; and this is perhaps the only sense in which a man can be said to be naturally great. It is in this sense that I have represented Caesar as great. Having virtue, he has no need of goodness. and For this raises the question whether our world has not been wrong in its moral theory for the last 2,500 years or so. Apparently what he likes about the ancient world is that it had 'great' men who used it as their playground. The play of full of contempt for the officers and leaders of his contemporary Britain, which by any objective measure except longevity is the greatest empire the world has ever seen. In terms of power, scope, audacity, morality, and positive effect on the peace and prosperity of the world, it far outclassed ancient Rome. Anything that is to be admired about ancient Rome or Egypt, and there is much to admire, was even better in Britain. Anything to hate about Victorian Britain, and there is much to hate, was far worse in antiquity. The one exception might be art and architecture. I happen to agree with his contention that the ancient Egyptians had better taste in interior decoration than the Victorian British. But this is utterly irrelevant to any serious judgment of a society. The glorification of antiquity is pretty common. Lots of people like to make a political point by saying bad things about parts of their society they do not like. They use places that are far away in either time or space as a kind of imaginary utopia, claiming the imagined virtues of these other places and times as part of their own political ideals. But the main problem with the play was a moral lesson that was powerfully delivered, persuasive, and totally wrong and evil. The play says, repeatedly and explicitly, that it is better for agents of the government to personally kill people they decide must die, instead of executing them after due process of law. This summary execution is portrayed as a noble virtue, while calling a court session to dispense justice is seen as weakness and vice. Basically, George Bernard Shaw is attacking the very foundation of a free society, and championing the worst kind of despotism. In order to see how he manages to insinuate this twisted moral lesson into the mind of the reader, you would have to read through the whole play, which I do not recommend unless you are interested in social history and have a well-developed moral philosophy. It may or may not be a coincidence that George Bernard Shaw was a Fabian Socialist, a eugenicist, and a vocal supporter of Stalin.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ioana

    I enjoyed this! It's funny, clever, and it kept me interested, which says something for a play. I plan on reading more from GB Shaw.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    From Shaw's essential notes on the play: "...there is the illusion of 'increased command over Nature,' meaning that cotton is cheap and that ten miles of country road on a bicycle have replaced four on foot. But even if man's increased command over Nature included any increased command over himself (the only sort of command relevant to his evolution into a higher being), the fact remains that it is only by running away from the increased command over Nature to country places where Nature is stil From Shaw's essential notes on the play: "...there is the illusion of 'increased command over Nature,' meaning that cotton is cheap and that ten miles of country road on a bicycle have replaced four on foot. But even if man's increased command over Nature included any increased command over himself (the only sort of command relevant to his evolution into a higher being), the fact remains that it is only by running away from the increased command over Nature to country places where Nature is still in primitive command over Man that he can recover from the effects of the smoke, the stench, the foul air, the overcrowding, the racket, the ugliness, the dirt which the cheap cotton costs us. If manufacturing activity means Progress, the town must be more advanced than the country; and the field laborers and village artisans of today must be much less changed from the servants of Job than the proletariat of modern London from the proletariat of Caesar's Rome. Yet the cockney proletarian is so inferior to the village laborer that it is only by steady recruiting from the country that London is kept alive. This does not seem as if the change since Job's time were Progress in the popular sense: quite the reverse. The common stock of discoveries in physics has accumulated a little: that is all."

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

    The third play in a compendium of four by GBS that I recently picked up is equally delightful to the first two that I have read. In Ceasar and Cleopatra the most striking aspects of the play, apart from the ever present well reknown wit of GBS, is the character development. Throughout the work Ceasar is a constant, not the glorified hero of many a work, but a character portrayed as a common man - a very successful, competent, resourceful one - but a man presented with warts and all (or in his c The third play in a compendium of four by GBS that I recently picked up is equally delightful to the first two that I have read. In Ceasar and Cleopatra the most striking aspects of the play, apart from the ever present well reknown wit of GBS, is the character development. Throughout the work Ceasar is a constant, not the glorified hero of many a work, but a character portrayed as a common man - a very successful, competent, resourceful one - but a man presented with warts and all (or in his case a middle aged paunch with balding head). Cleopatra in comparision starts the play as a naive, petty little girl, who grows into a queen and ruler during the course of the play. A very dramatic transformation, quite well wrought.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Goddess Of Blah

    I read this play soon after finishing The Devil's Disciple . Its brilliant. All of Shaw's plays that I have so far read have left me chuckling. If you like Oscar Wilde, then you will definitely appreciate the witty dialogue, incisive humour, “philosophy” and cynical observations that dominate Shaw's plays. These are some quotes from Shaw's plays: “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” “When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.” “The reasonable m I read this play soon after finishing The Devil's Disciple . Its brilliant. All of Shaw's plays that I have so far read have left me chuckling. If you like Oscar Wilde, then you will definitely appreciate the witty dialogue, incisive humour, “philosophy” and cynical observations that dominate Shaw's plays. These are some quotes from Shaw's plays: “All great truths begin as blasphemies.” “When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.” “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ruby

    There is a continual compare and contrast between Cleopatra and Caesar throughout the entire play. Touchingly innocent in many ways and very tender. Caesar's relationship to Cleopatra is at times like a lover's but whenever she acts up he is strongly paternal. They are very similar in many ways. Staunchly loyal, with very firm ideas how a ruler should be.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carrie D.

    I laughed out loud a lot but George Bernard Shaw doesn't seem like he likes women very much or he's being satirical idk I'm not that smart.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stormie

    shaw is pretty much my new favorite writer, mostly because he's undeniably sassy--and unashamed to be so.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ori Nagel

    This was a few stories ago, so now I don't even remember it that well! Tells you something about it. What I do remember is that Caesar is old and wise, Cleopatra bratty and immature. Caesar is portrayed not as a heroic leader, but more a man of the people. It reminds me of an interview segment of an old client of mine from 2010. The CEO was a member of the company bike team. But the CEO isn't the captain. In fact, he's not even a top cyclist! And he said, that's how it should be. The era of the This was a few stories ago, so now I don't even remember it that well! Tells you something about it. What I do remember is that Caesar is old and wise, Cleopatra bratty and immature. Caesar is portrayed not as a heroic leader, but more a man of the people. It reminds me of an interview segment of an old client of mine from 2010. The CEO was a member of the company bike team. But the CEO isn't the captain. In fact, he's not even a top cyclist! And he said, that's how it should be. The era of the Imperial CEO is gone, in today's workplace the boss has to lead via influence and collaboration. I think the insight from that CEO in 2010 is the same takeaway the audience is supposed to pick up here. It only took 100+ years for it to become a reality, eh Mr. Shaw? Maybe it's a timeless moral. It's easy to glorify a leader, but effective leadership is not superhuman but rather a matter of common sense. Aside from that element of the story, I didn't have much invested in the action or drama. The specifics of the war between the Romans and Egyptians is not sufficiently developed. I believe it's assumed the reader knows the battle's specifics. And what you're supposed to get in this retelling is a 20th century complexity/sensibility in the characters. Eh.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Realini

    Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... and http://realini.blogspot.ro/ About twenty years ago I saw a documentary film. George Bernard Shaw was the protagonist. Indeed, he was a Show Man. In one instance, he turned around in front of the camera and said something like: - This is my profile… now from the left…my face…and the back He also expressed a view on Hitler, which in my mind Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at: - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list... and http://realini.blogspot.ro/ About twenty years ago I saw a documentary film. George Bernard Shaw was the protagonist. Indeed, he was a Show Man. In one instance, he turned around in front of the camera and said something like: - This is my profile… now from the left…my face…and the back He also expressed a view on Hitler, which in my mind was something like this: - Hitler is a good speaker, organizer, made good roads…but we can say for humanity that it would have been better without him And I know I thought that clever and perhaps the best way to criticize a tyrant with whom indeed we would have been so much better. Little did I expect to find accusations of anti-Semitism and the admiration that the playwright expressed for dictators… - Unde dai si unde crapa- I was looking for the exact quote so that I do not write nonsense and find a…monster? - For when one is in awe of Mussolini and Stalin one has a serious mental problem Paul Johnson in his wonderful book The Intellectuals writes about the horrendous side of the geniuses we respect: - Tolstoy, Rousseau, Hemingway, Ibsen and others I did not find George Bernard Shaw there, but with his support for the aforementioned mass murderers he can be included in a lineup of The Usual Suspects, men provided with the necessary IQ to know better. Having found these gruesome details about Shaw, I am if not really nauseated, at least inclined to dismiss this work. And indeed, any other of his plays that I come across. There is this passage on the Wikipedia page dedicated to the Nobel Prize and Academy Award winner: - “Shaw's enthusiasm for the Soviet Union dated to the early 1920s when he had hailed Lenin as "the one really interesting statesman in Europe".[171] Having turned down several chances to visit, in 1931 he joined a party led by Nancy Astor.[172] The carefully managed trip culminated in a lengthy meeting with Stalin, whom Shaw later described as "a Georgian gentleman" with no malice in him.[173] At a dinner given in his honor, Shaw told the gathering: "I have seen all the 'terrors' and I was terribly pleased by them".[174] In March 1933 Shaw was a co-signatory to a letter in The Manchester Guardian protesting at the continuing misrepresentation of Soviet achievements: "No lie is too fantastic, no slander is too stale ... for employment by the more reckless elements of the British press." And there is more on Hitler, whom Shaw declared to be “a very able, a very remarkable man” and to add insult to injury, the writer knew he is alone in this hideous admiration… He declared he is the only writer “just and polite to Hitler” Another outside scene comes to mind, in which a standup comedian throws another light at “If” by Rudyard Kipling. If all around you have a different take, perspective on one thing, you better get your head examined if you seriously keep on and on with an outrageous, different claim…at least that was the gist of it, if I am not wrong. The same “social proof” principle, as explained in his classic Influence by Robert Cialdini applies to George Bernard Shaw. In light of this entire appalling discovery, made just now, looking for material on Shaw, I just like the play even less. I was not thrilled anyway by the novelty of the take on the friendship and intimacy between the much older Caesar and child Cleopatra. I laughed a little at references made to Britain and Britons, who were blue as opposed to the Romans who liked colorful dresses. The peacock brains and nightingales used for meals outraged me somewhat. The rest was more or less familiar, with a different twist that now appears as small reason to celebrate.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mac

    "Caesar and Cleopatra" is another strong play from George Bernard Shaw. It is compelling as drama, with believable versions of the title characters and an interesting supporting cast. Shaw also finds a way to insert little inside jokes for his audience by inventing a character called Britannus, a slave/advisor of Caesar from the British Isles. He is thus able to satirize modern Britain through things Britannus says, or things that are said about him. In the relations of Rome with Egypt, Shaw als "Caesar and Cleopatra" is another strong play from George Bernard Shaw. It is compelling as drama, with believable versions of the title characters and an interesting supporting cast. Shaw also finds a way to insert little inside jokes for his audience by inventing a character called Britannus, a slave/advisor of Caesar from the British Isles. He is thus able to satirize modern Britain through things Britannus says, or things that are said about him. In the relations of Rome with Egypt, Shaw also seems to be saying things about his modern Britain's imperialism. Even if you ignore the social commentary, "Caesar and Cleopatra" tells a good story. I highly recommend it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chandini

    I really enjoyed this play but it's a lot funnier if you've recently seen/read/heard William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Shaw's play is all about the politics but Shakespeare's plays are all about the romanticised relationships. I enjoyed the way Shaw depicted Cleopatra as a young girl learning to be a ruler, not the stereotypical sex kitten Queen. Caesar is also shown in a different light. He's a patient teacher who won't punish those who speak against him instead I really enjoyed this play but it's a lot funnier if you've recently seen/read/heard William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Shaw's play is all about the politics but Shakespeare's plays are all about the romanticised relationships. I enjoyed the way Shaw depicted Cleopatra as a young girl learning to be a ruler, not the stereotypical sex kitten Queen. Caesar is also shown in a different light. He's a patient teacher who won't punish those who speak against him instead of a blustering military man.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Archita Mitra

    When I started reading this play, I expected a romance, and was surprised and amused to find a political play that takes a philosophical stance on colonialism. It is easy to win a war; it is harder to rule, especially when the ruler and the subjects hail from different cultures. The Western thought and philosophy of Rome as personified by Britannus and the other Roman soldiers strongly clash with the values and culture of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and her subjects. Caesar, however, tries to a When I started reading this play, I expected a romance, and was surprised and amused to find a political play that takes a philosophical stance on colonialism. It is easy to win a war; it is harder to rule, especially when the ruler and the subjects hail from different cultures. The Western thought and philosophy of Rome as personified by Britannus and the other Roman soldiers strongly clash with the values and culture of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and her subjects. Caesar, however, tries to act as a mediator in this clash of cultures, and through it, emerges as a wise and just leader.

  29. 5 out of 5

    M

    Extremely entertaining. I don't know how much I agree with some of his characterizations of religion in his Notes, but Shaw certainly understands greatness. Caesar is painted marvelously. His national characterizations and depiction of girlhood also both find the balance between profound and funny.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    So this is one of the few plays that I read but have never seen performed. The thing I remember is the portrayal of a bratty teenage Cleopatra.

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