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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: April ::
Re: Black Cleopatra
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0781  Thursday, 5 April 2001

[1]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Apr 2001 11:02:06 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra

[2]     From:   J. B. Lethbridge <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Apr 2001 22:00:28 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Thursday, 5 Apr 2001 00:12:48 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Apr 2001 11:02:06 -0700
Subject: 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra

>I hate to be difficult but are we to assume that Marc Antony, not to
>mention his sexually ambivalent foster father, fell insanely in love
>with a dowdy, dumpy intellectual? I don't say it's impossible, but it
>does seem to me unlikely, especially considering the type that the Man
>of Action (like Antony) usually goes for.

Hey, never underestimate the power of a dowdy, dumpy, intellectual
female.

You might ask yourself, what would Antony and Caesar have thought of the
ideal feminine of our own time? Most of the females I know hate it since
it make them look dowdy and dumpy by comparison. (Who can give up eating
entirely or has the time to "define" their arms at a gym?) I saw a
reproduction of a drawing of Cleopatra that was described as authentic
and thought she looked pretty cool, sort of like Maria Callas.

>I remember doing some research on Billy the Kid some years back and
>coming on a very well informed historian who debunked perhaps ninety per
>cent of the killings attributed to him.

As for "the Kid," nobody ever looked so dowdy, dumpy and downright
stupid as the guy in the single photograph we have of him, yet dozens of
women claimed he was their lover, women protected him, lied for him and
went crazy when he died. There's still no answer to the question of
whether the Kid was a bad guy or a good guy. A double reputation still
lives to this day. But what we can be sure of is that no one could
arouse either this kind of adoration or the hatred that is its mirror
opposite unless they had tremendous charisma.

Stephanie Hughes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           J. B. Lethbridge <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Apr 2001 22:00:28 +0200
Subject: 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra

Don Bloom remarks of Billy the Kid, that

"If the people who knew him considered him such a threat, he probably
was one."

So all the witches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries really
were witches because the people who knew them thought they were?  I had
a friend once who was falsely accused of a murder. Even after the
culprit was found, people still said, no smoke without fire.  It was
very damaging.  When it comes to live people, I dare say we'd all agree
that such aspersion is foul.

I wonder if a good principle for lit crit would be that what we cannot
argue (or state without argument) about living people we shouldn't argue
about historical or fictional characters.  A remark like this is not
evidence; one would hope that it would not stand up in a court of law --
why should it pass in criticism or history then, when one has more time
to be more careful about evidence?

Aspersion and bald accusation are very common in lit crit (and of course
on this list, where one is more hurried and perhaps plain combative) --
but would such remarks stand up to a libel suit?  If not, should they
stand up in lit crit?

Julian Lethbridge
University of Tuebingen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Thursday, 5 Apr 2001 00:12:48 -0400
Subject: 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0758 Re: Black Cleopatra

Don Bloom:

> I hate to be difficult but are we to assume that Marc Antony, not to
> mention his sexually ambivalent foster father, fell insanely in love
> with a dowdy, dumpy intellectual? I don't say it's impossible, but it
> does seem to me unlikely, especially considering the type that the Man
> of Action (like Antony) usually goes for.
<snip>
> In Cleopatra's case, something must have made her sensually overpowering
> or she could not have used her sensuality to protect herself and her
> throne.

But what is the historical evidence for this love?  Need the "something"
(in the way she moves?) be anything more than her political power as an
absolute monarch and worshipped goddess (a status desired and soon
achieved by the Roman emperors)?  Power and luxury (and drugs?) almost
kept Odysseus on Circe's island, and Aeneas in Africa.  Why not Julius
and Antony?  Poets have an annoying habit of attributing romantic
motives to what history shows merely to be imperialism.

I agree with Mari Bonomi that Cleo's political acumen seems at least as
credible an endearing quality as her overpowering sensuality.  It just
doesn't make for good poetry.

Clifford
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