Changing Representations of Cleopatra in Film and on Television

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What do the representations of Cleopatra in film and on television (as shown on DVD video 'Cleopatra') tell us about howher reputation changed over time? Discuss with reference to two or three representations

In order to answer this question we must explore how the social and economic differences altered interpretations of Cleopatra and the effect it had on visual representations. Cleopatra, the last Hellenistic Queen of Egypt, was first portrayed by Theda Bara in 1917. She used her 'vamp' like persona to bring Cleopatra to the big screen in silent film. At the same time the Women’s Suffragette movement had picketed the white house to gain equal rights for women and the right to vote. This change in society and rise of feminism, allowed women the freedom to express themselves and could have been a factor in enabling Theda to portray Cleopatra as an alluring beauty as well as controversially, making her appear a 'threatening and ominous' ( Fear, speaking in 'Cleopatra' 2008, see transcript p.1) , strong woman. Characteristics needed for a Queen. Elizabeth Taylor, the world's most iconic actress at the time, presented an extravagant spectacle in the 1963 film 'Cleopatra' which allowed Plutarch description of Cleopatra as 'the character of Venus' (Fear,2008, p.10 ) to come alive. Elizabeth Taylors iconic beauty infuses Plutarch's account of 'temptation personified'(Fear,2008, p9) into the part of Cleopatra, yet allows the intelligence of a more worldly and highly educated women to be highly regarded in her depiction which in turn shows how a women's role in society had changed over time. The creation of the UN is reflected in this film with the birth of a single world culture between the Roman Empire and Egypt. Similarly in 1963 Martin Luther King was at the time focusing on the rights for black African American citizens and the unity of race in America and delivered his famous 'I have a dream' speech. (abc news,2013) The off screen romance between...
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