Caesar and Cleopatraby George Bernard Shaw
Format of Original Source: Play
Recommended Adaptation Length:
Candidate for Adaptation? Promising
Shaw’s poignant coming-of-age telling of young Cleopatra becoming a cold cruel ruler before our eyes.
an excerpt:CAESAR (amazed). Who are you?
THE GIRL. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.
CAESAR. Queen of the Gypsies, you mean.
CLEOPATRA. You must not be disrespectful to me, or the Sphinx will let the Romans eat you. Come up. It is quite cosy here.
CAESAR (to himself). What a dream! What a magnificent dream! Only let me not wake, and I will conquer ten continents to pay for dreaming it out to the end. (He climbs to the Sphinx’s flank, and presently reappears to her on the pedestal, stepping round its right shoulder.)
CLEOPATRA. Take care. That’s right. Now sit down: you may have its other paw. (She seats herself comfortably on its left paw.) It is very powerful and will protect us; but (shivering, and with plaintive loneliness) it would not take any notice of me or keep me company. I am glad you have come: I was very lonely. Did you happen to see a white cat anywhere?
CAESAR (sitting slowly down on the right paw in extreme wonderment). Have you lost one?
CLEOPATRA. Yes: the sacred white cat: is it not dreadful? I brought him here to sacrifice him to the Sphinx; but when we got a little way from the city a black cat called him, and he jumped out of my arms and ran away to it. Do you think that the black cat can have been my great-great-great-grandmother?
CAESAR (staring at her). Your great-great-great-grandmother! Well, why not? Nothing would surprise me on this night of nights.
CLEOPATRA. I think it must have been. My great-grandmother’s great-grandmother was a black kitten of the sacred white cat; and the river Nile made her his seventh wife. That is why my hair is so wavy. And I always want to be let do as I like, no matter whether it is the will of the gods or not: that is because my blood is made with Nile water.
CAESAR. What are you doing here at this time of night? Do you live here?
CLEOPATRA. Of course not: I am the Queen; and I shall live in the palace at Alexandria when I have killed my brother, who drove me out of it. When I am old enough I shall do just what I like. I shall be able to poison the slaves and see them wriggle, and pretend to Ftatateeta that she is going to be put into the fiery furnace.
CAESAR. Hm! Meanwhile why are you not at home and in bed?
CLEOPATRA. Because the Romans are coming to eat us all. YOU are not at home and in bed either.
CAESAR (with conviction). Yes I am. I live in a tent; and I am now in that tent, fast asleep and dreaming. Do you suppose that I believe you are real, you impossible little dream witch?
CLEOPATRA (giggling and leaning trustfully towards him). You are a funny old gentleman. I like you.
CAESAR. Ah, that spoils the dream. Why don’t you dream that I am young?
CLEOPATRA. I wish you were.
Several musicalizations already exist based on this play, but none terribly successful. With the right focus (and editing), there could be a very powerful, dramatic musical in this material. See, in particular, the first prologue, and acts One and Four.
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