Her History, Her Myth
Imprint: Yale University Press
Series: Ancient Lives
“A lucid and persuasive reinterpretation. Readers won’t see Cleopatra the same way again.”—Publishers Weekly
“Where Prose really sparkles: her critiques of the cultural depictions of Cleopatra.”—Allison Arieff, San Francisco Chronicle
The siren passionately in love with Mark Antony, the seductress who allegedly rolled out of a carpet she had herself smuggled in to see Caesar, Cleopatra is a figure shrouded in myth. Beyond the legends immortalized by Plutarch, Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and others, there are no journals or letters written by Cleopatra herself. All we have to tell her story are words written by others. What has it meant for our understanding of Cleopatra to have had her story told by writers who had a political agenda, authors who distrusted her motives, and historians who believed she was a liar?
Francine Prose delves into ancient Greek and Roman literary sources, as well as modern representations of Cleopatra in art, theater, and film, to challenge narratives driven by orientalism and misogyny and offer a new interpretation of Cleopatra’s history through the lens of our current era.
“Francine Prose offers a feminist reinterpretation of the life of the Egyptian queen. Her chapter ‘Cleopatra on Film’ features biting observations.”—Martin Chilton, Independent, “Books of the Month”
“What distinguishes this book from [previous biographies] is the author’s efficient and persuasive writing style. Prose’s prose is, predictably, beautiful. The urban Mediterranean, which forms the background for much of the narrative, is compellingly described. The author’s acerbic deconstruction of harmful tropes further adds to the book’s distinctive tone.”—Arienne King, World History Encyclopedia
“This account stands out from the rest by highlighting the racist, imperialist and orientalist nature of Cleopatra’s portrayals, and for this it should be applauded.”—Emma Southon, author of A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum