Caesar and Cleopatra
Bernard Shaw 1913
“When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.” (Act III p 70)
Any work by Shaw is rich with aphoristic statements as noted above; for Shaw is play-write of observation deftly capable of inserting social criticism into the voices of his characters. He uses this skill to tell the tale of Caesar and Cleopatra as a period piece written by an Irishman criticizing British Imperialism at the cusp of the first World War through the portrayal of Caesar’s Roman expansion upon Persian and Egyptian soil. For this effort, Caesar and Cleopatra is effective in its efforts as a play with political undertones. However, the character portrayal of this play lacks a certain depth that failed to spark the interests of this reader. Cleopatra is excessively young and naive and Caesar is excessively wise and commandeering. I had expected a tale that would have depicted a budding relationship between these two historical icons but I only received a political morality tale with the characters puppeteering each other and their subjects in their shared efforts for power.