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Shakespeare & Beyond

The Queen of the Night: The infinite variety of Cleopatra

In the image above, Constance Collier, magnificent as the dying Cleopatra, sits on her throne in a dimly-lit room, light sparkling off her crown, belt and spangled train. This 1906-07 London production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra is considered a high point in the stage history of that play, with director/actor Herbert Beerbohm-Tree sparing no expense in creating spectacular sets and costumes.

Collier later wrote in her memoir, “There is only a mention in the play of Cleopatra appearing as the goddess Isis. Tree elaborated this into a great tableau . . . Cleopatra, robed in silver, crowned in silver, carrying a golden scepter and the symbol of the sacred golden calf in her hand, went in procession through the streets of Alexandria, the . . . screaming populace acclaiming the Queen, half in hate, half in superstitious fear and joy.”


What is your view on why so few actresses of color have been cast as Cleopatra?

Pamela Allen Brown — November 27, 2019

It is very difficult to find an actress of any color to do Cleopatra. The role is tremendous. I would look for talent first.

Jules Trachten — December 1, 2019