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Shakespeare Connected - Ageless Cleopatra

“The barge she sat in”

At one stage, Cleopatra arrives lying down in a barge: a spectacular entrance. The ornamental boat shines in the river “like a burnished throne”, while Cleopatra is described as more beautiful than any artist’s work.

Pictorial editions of Shakespeare were particularly popular in the nineteenth century.

Charles Knight’s extra illustrated version includes dozens of images and cut-outs, including a depiction of her barge. But a more striking image is in Byam Shaw’s illustration, which displays the extraordinary sensuality of the moment.

Hearing the description of this moment, one of Caesar’s followers responds, “O rare for Antony” (“O rare” meaning “how splendid”).


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Detail of barge illustration, SR 39/1848.


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Byam Shaw's illustration of Cleopatra arriving by barge. 



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