CLEOPATRA: A LIFE - Stacy Schiff
A fascinating biography of Cleopatra which brings ancient Rome and Alexandria to life. I read it together with Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra andwith viewing the film of the Royal Shakespeare's 1974 production of the play with Janet Suzman, Richard Johnson, Patrick Stewart, and Corin Redgrave in the leads. The biography fills in some of the gaps in the play, although it is amazing how closely Shakespeare kept to Plutarch's account, allowing for his shortening the time of the war to keep the play moving at a quick pace. In the biography Cleopatra's intelligence is highlighted -- she was a linguist, speaking many languages, an able queen, with an amazing ability to survive as ruler for 22 years (starting at age 17) in a brutal world. Her brutality is also noted; she killed most of her siblings in order to keep her throne, but had she not, they would have killed her. The Egyptian royal family carried dysfunctionality to the nth degree!
Schiff sees Cleopatra's influence extending after her death in freeing up Roman women and making them more assertive in the political life of Rome. Schiff also points out there is much we can never know about Cleopatra - but what remains clear is that she was a powerful and charismatic woman, who lived life to the full.