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Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. William Shakespeare. 1564-1616 Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional career in London, then returned to Stratford, where he is buried. He would have learned Latin and Greek in school and probably read many works of classical literature.

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Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra


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william shakespeare
William Shakespeare
  • 1564-1616
  • Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional career in London, then returned to Stratford, where he is buried.
  • He would have learned Latin and Greek in school and probably read many works of classical literature.
  • Antony and Cleopatra probably written 1600-1612
  • Shakespeare's primary source Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Life of Antony published in 1579
antony and cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
  • Antony and Cleopatra may have been Shakespeare's last tragedy: in it he takes tragedy as far as he can; to go further he would have to go into comedy or romance so this play challenges the form of tragedy and challenges the audience as well
  • Antony and Cleopatra has no prologue. We start with Philo and Demetrius. Note that the name Philo is derived from the Greek root meaning love so Shakespeare hints at a theme right at the beginning.
  • Later, there is Eros (also means love in Greek). Eros is a character in Plutarch (and may well have been a historical figure) but Shakespeare exploits the meaning of his name.
characters and setting
Characters and Setting
  • Philo is a resistant, critical Roman who has been in Egypt a while; Demetrius is a new arrival
  • Philo presents Antony and Cleopatra to Demetrius; in this way Demetrius is a surrogate for the audience and the dialogue works in some similar ways to prologues in drama (in which a character usually speaks directly to the audience and introduces the play they are about to see).
  • The play offers an arc which follows physical movement: we go from Alexandria to the royal court to the infamous monument. We enter and exit under a Roman gaze: at the beginning Philo and Demetrius look on and at the end Caesar (Octavian) views the dead Cleopatra.
close reading
Close Reading
  • Words of seeing permeate the play and can help our interpretation.
    • Look: refers to sense of sight
    • Note: make a point of taking something in and keeping it in mind
    • Behold: calls attention to something, points something out
    • See: understand
  • The first scene is framed in seeing, beholding, and understanding
  • Demetrius accepts Philo's presentation but perhaps the question occurs to us should we identify with Demetrius as our surrogate in the play? Is it in fact the Roman view of the Egyptian experience that predominates and that we embrace in this play?
  • By encouraging these questions, the play makes us revise what we have seen and understand in different ways
cleopatra and antony on love
Cleopatra and Antony on Love
  • CLEOPATRA: If it be love indeed, tell me how much.
  • ANTONY: There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned.
  • CLEOPATRA: I'll set a bourn how far to be beloved.
  • ANTONY: Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth.
  • (Antony and Cleopatra 1.1.15-18)
  • How does Cleopatra want to measure love?
  • And Antony?
transcending the world
Transcending the world
  • Cleopatra attempts to quantify love but Antony resists. By the end of the play there is a movement towards the immeasurable, the transcendent. The world is judged too small and not of great worth.
  • This eventual judgment is foreshadowed in Antony's speech a few lines later:

ANTONY: Let Rome in Tiber melt and the wide arch

Of the ranged empire fall. Here is my space,

Kingdoms are clay. Our dungy earth alike

Feeds beast as man.

(Antony and Cleopatra 1.1.38-41)

  • There are many images of melting in this play.
the character of cleopatra
The character of Cleopatra

LEPIDUS: What manner o' thing is your crocodile?

ANTONY: It is shaped, sir, like itself, and it is as broad as

it hath breadth. It is just so high as it is, and moves

with its own organs. It lives by that which nourisheth

it, and the elements once out of it, it transmigrates.

LEPIDUS: Of what color is it?

ANTONY: Of it own color too.

LEPIDUS: 'Tis a strange serpent.

ANTONY: 'Tis so, and the tears of it are wet.

(Antony and Cleopatra 2.7.42-52)

  • What can we understand from this joking passage about crocodiles? Might the crocodile be a metaphor?
  • What are “crocodile tears”?
crocodile tears
Crocodile Tears
  • To weep crocodile tears is to pretend a sorrow that one doesn’t in fact feel, to create a hypocritical show of emotion.
  • The idea comes from the ancient belief that crocodiles weep while luring or devouring their prey. This story seems to have been taken up by medieval French and English writers and that’s where we get it from.
    • Sir John Hawkins (1665): “In this river we saw many Crocodils .. His nature is ever when he would have his prey, to cry and sob like a Christian body, to provoke them to come to him, and then he snatcheth at them”.
    • The Voyage and Travail of Sir John Mandeville (1400, earliest example in English): “In many places of Inde are many crocodiles—that is, a manner of long serpent. These serpents slay men and they eat them weeping”.
    • The story was taken up by Edmund Spenser in The Fairie Queen and then by Shakespeare.
  • In fact, crocodiles have no tear ducts—they would be useless in an animal that spends so much time in the water. The eyes can produce secretions to moisten the lids if the animal is out of the water for a while. The glands that moisten the eyes are so close to the animal’s throat that the effort of swallowing forces moisture from them, giving the impression of tears.
crocodile mythology
Crocodile mythology
  • The crocodile was, to the people on the ancient Near East, a familiar character in many of their common texts. In Egypt the reptile was equated with the crocodile-headed Sebek who symbolized viscous passions, deceit, treachery and hypocrisy.
  • In parts of Egypt the crocodile was venerated as a symbol of sunrise and the rising waters of the Nile.
  • It was written that, "Having swallowed the moon (i.e., conquered the night) ... he wept (causing the waters to rise),”
  • At Thebes, a young crocodile was reared in the temple and decorated with jewels of all kinds.
  • At Ombi, the crocodile was worshipped and its mummified remains have been found in numerous surrounding catacombs.
  • According to Pliny, the people of Rome revered the crocodile for its silence and stealth. They believed the reptile was tongueless.
  • The Greeks saw in the crocodile the dual nature of man, represented by the reptile's ability to live in both water and on land.
  • In ancient Israel, the populace bestowed the name Taninim (Leviathan), the sea monster on the crocodile. They were reminded of the reference in Genesis (Gen. 1-2) in which, "God then created the great sea monster ... "
  • The first Christians called the crocodile "the devourer" and believed that being swallowed by a crocodile was a sure guarantee of a quick descent into hell.
point of view
Point of View
  • Antony and Cleopatra contains a number of conflicts between different points of view (something a playwright can take advantage of).
  • Overall point of view in the play is uncertain; Antony and Cleopatra share top billing.
  • Shakespeare challenges ideas of heroism (both heroic behavior and the notion that the play should have a hero).
  • Antony himself seems torn in his assessment of his own character. He goes from exhilaration in which he has no concern for politics or the world (1.1.38-9) at large to lamenting being a slave to love (1.2.129, 143).
  • Antony's is not the only doubtful voice as far as the value of love is concerned. We can see also an opposition between Rome and Egypt (or more generally between East and West, a division that has implications for Shakespeare's England, which was a country very much in the tradition of Roman forms of politics, literature, and thought) and between male and female.
characterization of cleopatra
Characterization of Cleopatra
  • In the play's final scene, Cleopatra thinks about what awaits her at Rome: a scary prospect as she projects images of the actions that will take place at Rome
  • Like Antony freeing Eros on the condition that Eros grant him death, Caesar has set up the conditions of his triumph and it is not complete without Cleopatra in Rome: that is the essence of his triumph
  • As a result, if we want to figure out who is the victor in this conflict we have to think hard
  • The play is called Antony and Cleopatra and Antony and Caesar are at odds
  • But if we look at how Shakespeare sets up the play, the primary antagonists are Caesar and Cleopatra
caesar octavian and cleopatra
Caesar (Octavian) and Cleopatra
  • The play is conceived of in bipolar geography: Rome vs. Egypt
    • The triumvirate resolves itself into a unity represented by Caesar
    • Cleopatra of course is Egypt
  • In the final scene, the antagonists are brought together
  • In Act V Scene 2 Caesar finally comes face to face with Cleopatra and alters what has become a pattern in the play.
  • Great men of Rome have gravitated to Egypt
    • Antony
    • Dolabella
    • Enobarbus
  • But Caesar can look at her and resist; he is unavailable, although other than Cleopatra's reference to Livia his marriage is not mentioned in the play. We see him as a youth (Cleopatra is 37 or 38 years old); Octavian is described as "scarce-bearded" (perhaps similar to the portrayal of the eunuchs)
  • He may elude her but she also eludes him and his triumph is incomplete.
cleopatra s deception
Cleopatra’s Deception
  • Just as Octavian outmaneuvered Antony to get him to marry Octavia, so Cleopatra deceives Octavian in scene with treasurer to make Octavian think she wants a longer life:

CLEOPATRA: This is my treasurer. Let him speak, my lord,

Upon his peril, that I have reserved

To myself nothing.—Speak the truth, Seleucus.

SELEUCUS: Madam, I had rather seel my lips

Than to my peril speak that which is not.

CLEOPATRA: What have I kept back?

SELEUCUS: Enough to purchase what you have made known.

(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.172-178

  • On the obvious level, Cleopatra by not completing Octavian's triumph wins even if winning means death.
cleopatra imagines going to rome
Cleopatra imagines going to Rome
  • Death seems to her preferable to the parody she imagines for herself as part of Octavian's triumph:

CLEOPATRA: Now, Iras, what think'st thou?

Thou an Egyptian puppet shall be shown

In Rome as well as I. Mechanic slaves

With greasy aprons, rules, and hammers

Shall uplift us to the view. In their thick breaths,

Rank of gross diet, shall we be enclouded

And forced to drink their vapor.

IRAS: The gods forbid!

CLEOPATRA: Nay, 'tis most certain, Iras. Saucy Lictors

Will catch at us like strumpets, and scald rhymers

Ballad us out o' tune. The quick comedians

Extemporally will stage us and present

Our Alexandrian revels. Antony

Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see

Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness

I' th' posture of a whore.

(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.253-267)

  • Cleopatra's speech is an example of self-referentiality: the audience is of course watching a boy play Cleopatra.
who is cleopatra
Who is Cleopatra?
  • So who is Cleopatra in this play? How does she impress us?
  • We see her in various postures:
    • In the messenger scene announcing Antony's marriage to Octavia she scares the messenger
    • We also see her as nostalgic, loving, prevaricating
    • Throughout the play we see her performing herself despite what she fears seeing at Rome 
  • What is she? Whore, true lover, wife, ruler? What is her essence? Is she merely protean?
    • Antony called her his serpent of old Nile
    • We also see her in the crocodile Antony describes as being entirely sui generis
  • We can't get a handle on Cleopatra because she is quintessentially herself: she eludes us
cleopatra egypt and the asp
Cleopatra, Egypt and the Asp
  • Shakespeare offers us an ultimate mystery that will not yield to rational inquiry
  • Cleopatra like Egypt is rich with contradiction that becomes fusion
  • She represents the creative force that is so much associated with Egypt and the Nile but also death and the instrument of her death, the asp is at the same time eroticized.

CLEOPATRA: Give me my robe. Put on my crown. I have

Immortal longings in me. Now no more

The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip.

Yare, yare, good Iras, quick. Methinks I hear

Antony call. I see him rouse himself

To praise my noble act. I hear him mock

The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men

To excuse their after wrath.—Husband, I come!

Now to that name my courage proves my title.

I am fire and air; my other elements

I give to baser life.—So, have you done?

Come then, and take the last warmth of my lips.

Farewell, kind Charmian.—Iras, long farewell.

Have I the aspic in my lips? Dost fall?

If thou and nature can so gently part,

The stroke of death is as a lover's pinch,

Which hurts and is desired. Dost thou lie still?

If thus thou vanishest, thou tell'st the world

It is not worth leave-taking.

(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.335-353)

contrast with antony
Contrast with Antony
  • As Antony is lifted up to the monument, all his strength is transformed into heaviness: he is lifted up to die. Perhaps we see something that bears out Philo and Demetrius' assessment of how he has degenerated.
  • Heaviness may refer to his elements, his earth and water. In contrast Cleopatra is all air and fire at the end
  • Antony's transmigration is also a transformation and in Cleopatra's dream of him he becomes air and fire
antony through cleopatra s eyes
Antony through Cleopatra’s eyes
  • In her dream in V.2, Cleopatra gives us an Antony we have never seen:

CLEOPATRA: I dreamt there was an emperor Antony.

O, such another sleep, that I might see

But such another man...

His face was as the heavens, and therein stuck

A sun and moon, which kept their course and lighted

The little O, the earth...

His legs bestrid the ocean, his reared arm

Crested the world. His voice was propertied

As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;

But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,

He was as rattling thunder. For his bounty,

There was no winter in 't; an autumn 'twas

That grew the more by reaping. His delights

Were dolphin-like; they showed his back above

The element they lived in. In his livery

Walked crowns and crownets; realms and islands were

As plates dropped from his pocket.

(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.93-112)

cleopatra s transformation transcendence
Cleopatra’s transformation (transcendence?)
  • At the end of the play we see her in her last transformation as she effects a costume change as she calls for her robe and crown (she plays out Enobarbus' description of her).
  • At last after the asp she moves quietly into death as if nursing a child, but the child puts the nurse to sleep.
  • Caesar gets the corpse, the earth and water.
  • The air and fire have transmigrated and she and Antony are husband and wife.
  • She ends in mid-sentence and Charmian finishes it for her:

CLEOPATRA: As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle—

O Antony!—Nay, I will take thee too.

What should I stay—

CHARMIAN: In this wild world? So, fare thee well.

(Antony and Cleopatra 5.2.371-374)

  • What she does for Antony by dreaming him we are asked to do for Cleopatra: what Caesar sees is just earth and water and we are asked to dream her like the play dreams her.
  • The play is the monument to Cleopatra.
  • Caesar's vision is very Roman and in the end inadequate.
  • The force of the play brings us to see a transfigured Cleopatra and a refined Antony perhaps as characters that transcend the world we see.
egyptomania1
Egyptomania
  • Definition: the fascination with Egypt and craze for all things Egyptian
  • It is a craze that hits European civilization in waves from antiquity to the present.
  • Sources of this fascination:
    • Not just Cleopatra although she is a part of it
    • 3 important aspects of Egyptian culture contribute
      • 1. extreme antiquity of Egyptian civilization: Egyptians were recognized and admired by westerners as far back as the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th c. BC
      • 2. mysterious nature of Egypt: epitomized by monuments like the sphinx, obelisks and pyramids and above all by hieroglyphics, the meaning of which was little understood by Greeks and Romans (largely forgotten after time of Augustus and seemingly lost altogether by around 450 AD)
        • Mystery of Egypt increased in middle ages. Egypt was taken by the Arabs in 640 and became largely inaccessible to westerners for over 1000 years
      • 3. the exotic landscape: sand, the Nile, strange flora and fauna (e.g. the crocodile)
egyptomania in the augustan period
Egyptomania in the Augustan Period
  • Even before Octavian's conquest of Egypt, Romans knew something of Egypt especially through the worship of Isis which was of great importance in the Greco-Roman world
  • After the conquest, Egypt became part of the empire and the emperor (whether Augustus or another) could call himself pharaoh
  • Augustus imported at least one obelisk into Rome to commemorate his victory (image: obelisk in Piazza del Popolo brought by Augustus in 10 AD)
  • There are now 14 obelisks in Rome, some of Roman manufacture, some brought as late as the 4th c. AD
  • Note that the obelisk is topped with a cross: for Augustus the obelisk symbolized Roman victory over Egypt but in the late Renaissance and the 17th and 18th centuries, crosses on top symbolized the victory of Christianity over paganism

Obelisk, Piazza del Popolo, 10 AD

other obelisks in rome
Other obelisks in Rome

Obelisk near Santa Maria sopra Minerva (elephant by Bernini 1666-7). This church was near the site of a major ancient temple of Isis (Isaeum campense).

Obelisk in front of Pantheon

obelisks outside rome
Obelisks outside Rome
  • Not only Romans who appropriate obelisks: Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park
  • Nothing to do with Cleopatra: the obelisk was a tribute to Pharaoh Thutmosis III erected in Heliopolis 1600-1500 BC; moved to Alexandria in 12 BC by the Romans; gift to NYC in 1881
  • There is another obelisk called Cleopatra's Needle in London

Cleopatra’s Needle, London

Cleopatra’s Needle, Central Park, New York

another piece from the isaeum
Another piece from the Isaeum
  • Another statue from the Isaeum was found in 1513: colossal statue of the Nile, 2nd c. AD; note sphinx by left elbow, crocodile at feet, 16 putti represent the 16 cubits associated with the Nile flood
late middle ages and renaissance
Late Middle Ages and Renaissance
  • Little known about Egypt and almost no direct knowledge
  • But especially in Renaissance and later there was great interest in hieroglyphics and many attempts to decipher them because they were thought to hold secrets of arcane wisdom
  • But as yet there was no clue to their meaning and most people considered them to be ideograms
late 18 th century
Late 18th century
  • By this time many scholars and travelers had gone to Egypt, returning with artifacts, drawings, and designs that were incorporated into large numbers of European buildings, paintings, and even operas like The Magic Flute

Magic Flute stage set, 1816

magic flute 1791 synopsis
Magic Flute (1791): Synopsis
  • A prince, Tamino, is chased by a monster and rescued by the Queen of the Night who commissions him to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from an abductor, Sarastro. He is helped by a bird-catcher, Papageno, and a magic flute and magic bells the queen gave him. Tamino falls in love with a portrait of Pamina. Papageno finds Pamina and tells her Tamino is in love with her. They seek out Tamino who has found Sarastro's court and learned that he must join Sarastro's group to win Pamina. Tamino plays the flute and is answered by Papageno's pan pipes.
  • Tamino and Papageno have to prove their worthiness to enter Sarastro's society. Pamina too is tested: she must resist the advances of her guard and the influences of her mother. Sarastro's goals are revealed as largely benevolent and the Queen's as evil. Papageno fails the tests but his good nature wins him his bride. Tamino and Pamina pass the tests. The Queen and her followers sink into oblivion. Sarastro and his followers celebrate as Tamino and Pamina are united through love and the power of the magic flute.
magic flute egyptianizing elements
Magic Flute: Egyptianizing Elements
  • Setting
  • Sarastro: name derived from Persian prophet Zoroaster (who bears some similarity to Osiris)
  • Isis and Osiris are invoked by Sarastro:

Sarastro:

O Isis and Osiris, bestow

The spirit of wisdom on this young pair!

You who guide the wanderer's steps,

Strengthen them with patience in danger.

Chorus:

Strengthen them with patience in danger.

Sarastro:

Let them see the fruits of trial;

Yet if they should go to their deaths,

Then reward the bold course of virtue;

Receive them into your abode!

Later the priests sing, after the success of the young initiates, who have triumphed over the power of evil, represented by the Queen of the Night

O Isis and Osiris, what bliss!

Dark night is banished by the sunlight.

magic flute and freemasonry
Magic Flute and Freemasonry
  • Several references to Freemasonry, which traced some of its origins to Egypt:
  • Mozart was a member of the Masonic Lodge in Vienna and the journey that Tamino takes in the opera is thought to be representative of the initiation a new Mason would have undergone in Vienna in the 1790's
  • Fundamental concepts: truth is to be found in science and reason; nothing is quite as it seems and we must dig deeper to be enlightened (as Tamino has to learn through hard work, patience, and the application of reason the true natures of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night)
  • Specific allusions: the number three held significance in Masonry. Thus, we find three strongly emphasized chords in the overture, three Ladies in the service of the Queen of the Night, three Boys who lead Tamino and Papageno on their quest, in the original cast three slaves and three priests, three temples, three knocks on the doors of the temple, and three flats in the key signature of E flat, the home key of the opera. Other numbers are aslo significant in Masonry. For instance, the 77 strokes of the bastinado which Monostatos is to receive at the end of the First Act hearken to the idea that in Masonry the number 7 represents wisdom. The serpent which chases Tamino, the padlock used to punish Papageno for telling a lie, the portrait of Pamina, the flute and bells, the gender of some of the characters, the references to air, earth, fire, and water, the allusions to darkness and the sun, the colors of certain costumes - all these things can be tied to Masonic iconography.
napoleonic invasion of egypt
Napoleonic Invasion of Egypt
  • In May of 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt. His main purpose was to oust the Ottoman Turkish rulers and use Egypt as a base from which to menace British rule of India and to extend French influence to Asia and Africa
  • It's no surprise, then, that contemporaries compared him to Alexander the Great and Augustus (and even less of a surprise that he thought of himself that way).
  • But what is interesting for our purposes is the fact that Napoleon brought with him a second army of surveyors, draftsmen, and scholars to study the monuments (this too however is similar to Alexander the Great who brought scholars along on his conquests and sent samples of flora and fauna home to his tutor Aristotle)
  • Napoleon's invasion of Egypt was one of the largest scholarly enterprises in history.
  • The success of the French army was short-lived. By 1801 they were ousted by the British.
  • Under the subsequent treaty the French kept all their notes, drawings and surveys; the British kept the antiquities the French had discovered (including the Rosetta Stone—more on that in a moment; first the fruits of the French scholars' and artists' labors)
description of egypt
Description of Egypt
  • 21 folio volumes (1809-1829)
  • Had huge impact: scholarly effect
    • 1. opened ancient Egypt to serious and informed research
    • 2. engravings preserved record of many monuments later lost or damaged

Description of Egypt, frontispiece

influence of description of egypt
Influence of Description of Egypt
  • Popularity of Egyptian themes in home décor

Egyptianizing settee and chair

housewares
Housewares

Wedgewood jar

Sugar bowl

1 possible result of egyptian scholarship
1 possible result of Egyptian scholarship
  • Shelley's poem "Ozymandias" (1817)

I met a traveler from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

history behind the poem
History behind the poem
  • Temple of Ramesses II, called by the ancient Egyptians "The Temple of Millions of Years United with Thebes." Classical travelers referred to the temple, already much quarried away, both as the "Tomb of Ozymandias" and as the "Memnonium." It was Jean-François Champollion who correctly identified the ruins as those of Ramesses's mortuary temple and coined the name "Ramesseum.” On the right lies the toppled torso of a seated colossal statue of Ramesses II carved in red granite, called the Ozymandias colossus, originally about 20 meters high and weighing roughly 1,000 tons. Ozymandias is a Hellenized form of the prenomen of Ramesses II, Usermaatra.

Ramesseum

poem and ruins
Poem and ruins
  • Many readers of Shelley's "Ozymandias" have been puzzled by the discrepancies between the scene he describes and what the visitor to the western part of Thebes sees in the Ramesseum, where the shattered colossal statue of Ramesses II (Ozymandias) lies. There are no "trunkless legs of stone," no pedestal nor any inscription, no "frown" or "wrinkled lip" or "sneer" can be seen on the "shattered viage," and, what is perhaps most striking, the "colossal wreck" is not alone in the desert, surrounded by "lone and level sands," but in the midst of the substantial remains of a large temple. The Greek Historian, Diodorus Siculus (first century B.C.), whom Shelley read, provides the basis for the supposed inscription, but places it on an unfallen statue, notable for its lack of any flaw or blemish.
diodorus siculus 1 47
Diodorus Siculus 1.47
  • Ten stades from the first tombs . . . stands a monument of the king known as Osymandyas. At its entrance there is a pylon, constructed of variegated stone, two plethra in breadth and forty-five cubits high; passing through this one enters a rectangular peristyle, built of stone, four plethora long on each side; it is supported; in place of pillars; by monolithic figures sixteen cubits high, wrought in the ancient manner as to shape; and the entire ceiling, which is two fathoms wide, consists of a single stone, which is highly decorated with stars on a blue field. Beyond this peristyle there is yet another entrance and pylon, in every respect like the one mentioned before, save that it is more richly wrought with every manner of relief.
  • Beside the entrance are three statues, each of a single block of black stone from Syene, of which one, that is seated, is the largest of any in Egypt, the foot measuring over seven cubits, while the other two at the knees of this, the one on the right and the other on the left, daughter and mother, respectively, are smaller than the one first mentioned. And it is not merely for its size that this work merits approbation, but it is also marvellous by reason of its artistic quality and excellent because of the nature of the stone, since in a block of so great a size there is not a single crack or blemish to be seen. The inscription upon it runs: "King of Kings am I, Osymandyas. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works." There is also another statue of his mother standing alone, a monolith twenty cubits high, and it has three diadems on its head, signifying that she was both daughter and wife and mother of a king.
other sources for shelley
Other sources for Shelley
  • Denon's Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt (1802; rept. 1803).
  • Richard Pococke, A description of the East... (London, 1743, Vol. 1, plate 38): an engraving of the right leg of one of the statues.
the rosetta stone
The Rosetta Stone
  • Discovered by the French in 1799 at port of el-Rashid (ancient Rosetta)
  • Importance immediately recognized; rush to study it
  • Stone is a fragment of a decree concerning the cult of Ptolemy V dated March 27, 196 BC
  • The stone gives the text of the decree in hieroglyphics and also in Greek translation, enabling scholars to decipher hieroglyphics for the first time. It is now in the British Museum.