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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: March ::
Re: Black Cleopatra
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0537  Wednesday, 7 March 2001

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Mar 2001 08:21:10 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0523 Re: Black Cleopatra

[2]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Mar 2001 13:20:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0523 Re: Black Cleopatra


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Mar 2001 08:21:10 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.0523 Re: Black Cleopatra
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0523 Re: Black Cleopatra

Evelyn Gajowski writes:

> The summer 1988 production of *Antony and Cleopatra*
> at
> Shakespeare/Santa Cruz, directed by Michael Edwards,
> cast a black as
> Cleopatra.  It also, coincidentally, featured the
> most stunning opening
> of the play I have seen: at Cleopatra's and Antony's
> entrance at 1.1.10,
> she wore Antony's armor and "sword," while he wore
> her "tires and
> mantles" (2.5.22-23).

It certainly sounds interesting.  Can you explain in further detail why
you found it "stunning"?  (I'm not trying to be argumentative; I'd
really like to hear more!)

And Stephanie Hughes writes:

> Cleopatra was a Ptolemy, a
> Greek.

And Bill Godshalk writes:

> She was Greek, but,
> you know, maybe a
> little tanned by the sun's kisses.

Does being "Greek" necessarily and absolutely mean she was
"white"(whatever THAT term means)?  I would think there is at least a
possibility that the Ptolemy family may have become blended with
indigenous Egyptian-African families over time...?

> Also, when
> Shakespeare says "black" he doesn't use the word as
> we do today, he uses
> it as we do when we say the "black Irish," meaning
> dark hair and brows,
> with no reference at all to skin tone.

Well...we really don't know enough to say this conclusively.  Margreta
de Grazia "The Scandal of Shakespeare's Sonnets") and Kim Hall (several
essays and one book), among others, have written persuasively that at
least in some of Shakespeare's uses of the word "black," he may very
well have been referring to skin tone, and to African (or "Moorish")
descent or ethnicity.  I don't have the exact references at hand, but if
anyone wants them I can provide them.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Mar 2001 13:20:01 -0500
Subject: 12.0523 Re: Black Cleopatra
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0523 Re: Black Cleopatra

I was specifically asking about criticism of Shakespeare's Cleopatra as
well as stage productions  of A and C. (Thanks, Evelyn).   Recent and
not so recent criticism (dating back to Janet Adelman's fine appendix C
of The Common Liar) written by F. Royster (see the current issue of SQ),
D.Callaghan, K. Hall, B.  Bowen, E. Bartels, A Loomba, E. Jones, A
Barthelemy, M. Hendricks, L. Boose (in addition to Niell and Little,
Jr.) have shown that "black" meant a number of things in early modern
England, including the racial meaning.  I take it from her remarks that
Stepanie Highes has not read any of this criticism.  So let me try to
ask my question more clearly?  Are there any members of this listserv
interested in the history of Shakespeare criticism (and knowledgeable of
it) of Cleopatra who can comment on the issue Cleopatra's blackness?  On
how and when it became an issue in criticism?
 

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