Radical Shakespeare: Why do we get him so wrong?

By Pauline Kiernan

A timely study which restores the revolutionary message of Shakespeare's art.

Monday, 4 September 2023


I bet it wasn't just Cleopatra who thought her youthful affair with Julius C was foolish. (The author wasn't too keen on Augustus Caesar either.)
What would her former lover say to see her now with Antony?
Charmian. The valiant Caesar!
Cleopatra. By Isis, I will give thee bloody teeth,
If thou with Caesar paragon again
My man of men.
Charmian. By your most gracious pardon,
I sing but after you.
Cleopatra. My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I'll unpeople Egypt.
- The incomparable Cleopatra, Judi Dench.
I saw this production twice. Peter Hall had spent years trying to persuade Dench to play the role; she said she couldn't possibly play the character. But, thankfully, she finally gave in. She was electrifying. I think she is exactly how Shakespeare imagined her.
The playwright must have been very confident in his boy actor to play this sensational part.
I was living near the South Bank then and the second time, I got up before dawn to be fairest in the queue for standbys. It was a really lovely experience chatting to others lining up.
And, boy, second time round was even more stunning.

Back to project page
Share on social

Top rewards