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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: April ::
Cleopatra and Dollabella
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0345.  Friday, 28 April 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Jean Peterson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Apr 1995 11:59:02 -0400
        Subj:   Cleopatra & Dollabella
 
(2)     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Apr 1995 16:30:18 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0342  Deaths of Cleopatra and Antony
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Apr 1995 11:59:02 -0400
Subject:        Cleopatra & Dollabella
 
I'm with Alistair Scott on this one.  (e.g."Cleopatra was pushed toward suicide
by Dolabella acting as Caesar's agent"--NOT!)
 
I've always assumed that the dramatic purpose of Cleo's conversation with
Dollabella was twofold: to provide an auditor for the great "Emperor Antony"
set-piece (why, in this over-populated play, introduce an entirely NEW
character for this? a question to be asked), and to demonstrate that the ol'
girl hasn't lost her touch--she can still snare and enchant Romans, still make
them betray their political-militaristic-masculine loyalties. Was it Phyllis
Rackin (probably) who pointed out that Dol. sells out his leader and countryman
on the basis of a single conversation with the Queen? At any rate, Dol. tells
her what confirms her decision to suicide: "He'll lead me, then, in
triumph?"--exactly the information Caesar is trying to keep from her.
Egyptians, 10; Romans, 0!
 
Jean Peterson
Bucknell University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 27 Apr 1995 16:30:18 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0342  Deaths of Cleopatra and Antony
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0342  Deaths of Cleopatra and Antony
 
In response to Chris Stroffolino, yes, I must admit that Cleopatra does say
that she will commit suicide before she meets Doladella, but I point out
that Dolabella gives her the information that pushes her over the edge; he
tells her that Caesar intends to take her to Rome and that she has a limited
time in which to commit suicide. I'm not saying that Dolabella controls her
actions, but I do believe that he convinces her to act. And, yes, she does
seem to be wavering in her last scene. The Seleucus episode may be seen as a
trial of Caesar's possible infatuation with her (or if you will, a smoke
screen to convince him that she's not going to commit suicide). Would she
have acted so decisively if Dolabella hadn't given her the nudge?
 
In response to Chris Couche, please, let me have a little mystery in all
this! Bevington in this case is wrong. Please, Chris, give my position a
chance, and check the scene as it appears in the Folio. If you check
Bevington's edited scene with the Folio scene, you will see what I mean.
Dolabella does NOT leave before news of Antony's death is delivered to
Caesar. Bevington, like other editors, changes Dolabella's role, and then
rationalizes the change.
 
If Dolabella's mission is secret (he's one of Caesar's secret agents in my
production), then his mission is not public. Caesar does not want to appear
in this. Publicly he wants his wealthy supporters to believe that he wishes
to take Cleopatra back to Rome alive. Caesar is a generous conqueror, etc.
Privately, he knows that she must die, and suicide would be best for his
public image.
 
Also Caesar tells Cleopatra that, if she commits suicide, he will NOT
protect Caesarion -- who is the genetic son of Julius Caesar -- a definite
threat. Historically, we know that Caesarion "disappears." Cleopatra's
suicide gives Caesar -- in this play -- the excuse he genuinely wishes to
rid himself of the Egyptian royal family.
 
As I suggested earlier, you may wish to compare Queen Elizabeth's charade
when she had Mary, Queen of Scots, executed. Elizabeth wanted the execution
done, but she did not want to appear in the act. Shakespeare had ample
historical precedence for giving Caesar both private motives and public
motives that are at variance with each other.
 
Cleopatra and Caesar use Antony as a tool until he is no longer useful.
Cleopatra then encourages him to commit suicide -- and he does. After his
death, Cleo and Caesar face off -- and she blinks.
 
I realize that this is a "paranoid" interpretation of Cleopatra's suicide.
But, unfortunately, like many obsessed people, I'm convinced by the scenerio
that I give you above.
 

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