Cleopatra

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Oct 2017

Member Reviews

I actually haven't read Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, not sure why I requested this book to be quite honest, probably because I liked the cover and just assumed it was actually about Cleopatra. This was really good though and it reminded me of how much I actually like classical literature or things that are considered canon when I get to consume them in a setting that gives me context about what to be looking for. Like I really have a preference for things that come with forwards or annotations I'm coming to realize because I've never had the patience for taking classes but I do want to understand what it is about certain literature that makes people hold it in such high esteem. I think this does a good job of explaining why someone would enjoy the play, walking us through specific parts of it with explanations of theme and then contrasting it with other plays Shakespeare wrote. Almost makes me want to read the play itself. I wonder if Bloom actually annotates the plays themselves and if so I think I'd want to read that. I'm going to go look into it. I enjoyed this though, even without having read the play, and I'm sure it serves as a good complement to reading the play if youre someone like me and can't ever come to the understanding of these overarching themes on your own while reading older literature because the whole time you're like wow isn't this boring.
Was this review helpful?
I could not finish this book. I thought it was about Cleopatra but did not realize it was Shakespeare.
Was this review helpful?
Cleopatra: I am fire and air by Harold Bloom was a disappointment for me. I was expecting something different but not, what seems to be, a long drawn out college English 101 play analysis. If you need to see a sample paper on how to analysis a book or play, then this is perfect for you.
Was this review helpful?
Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air by Harold Bloom is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early October.

Although Cleopatra experiences a changing of view over time (powerful, but yet saucily perverse), Bloom analyses her through Shakespeare's use of dialogue during Antony & Cleopatra. With each character, there is a push and pull between political influence and feelings of passion; Marc Antony as submissive before her, while both are intensely pride-filled (as are many of the Bard's characters); Caesar portrayed as vengeful in Antony & Cleopatra, but in ailing decline during his own play; before the plot during toward darkness and tragedy, and Cleopatra begins staging her own death scene, wanting material wealth and an aesthetic, even in her final moments.
Was this review helpful?
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

	Anthony and Cleopatra is my favorite Shakespeare play.  It didn’t really attain this title until I was in graduate school.  There is something not only wonderful about the character of Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s play but also because it is a love story with a political theme.    Everyone remembers Cleopatra but very few remember that political component.
	Like all of us, Harold Bloom has fallen for Cleopatra.  Hard.  After reading his slim volume on Hamlet, I thought Bloom wanted to have an affair Gertrude, but now I think there is something of a threesome going on between Bloom, Gertrude, and Cleopatra.  One can’t really fault him for that.
	Bloom is at his best and most piercing when he links Shakespeare’s Cleopatra to the idea of ebb and flow of the Nile river.  This is a brilliant observation.  It actually does much to explain aspects of Cleopatra’s character and then also ties both Cleopatra and ebb/flow into Anthony’s character.  It is quite interesting.
	There are also problems with it.  In many ways, it is difficult for a female reader to forget that early on in his book, Bloom writes that Cleopatra “cunning beyond male thought”.  Now I am looking at an early electronic galley, so hopefully that word male will be removed.  As it stands, it is jarring.  It almost forces the female to reader out of the book.  A strange feeling considering the subject is a woman.
	It’s true to note that Shakespeare’s audience would have been male, so Bloom is undoubtedly correct on a basic level.  Yet, the narrow focuses weaken his point, especially the level point in connecting Cleopatra to the water.
Was this review helpful?
Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom explores one of Shakespeare's most intriguing personalities with his book Cleopatra: I am Fire and Air.

Bloom clearly appreciates the literary character and writes not only about the character as written, but also as performed by some of the bigger named or more famous actresses.

Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra is not one of his more popular plays and not performed nearly as often as some of his other tragedies and yet the enigmatic character of Cleopatra is instantly recognizable to most people and brings to mind a strong, sexual, sensual ruler of exotic persuasion.

I have sometimes found Bloom's writing to be annoying and even difficult to read, but that was not an issue here.  Instead, Bloom pulled me in right away as he made the book immediately personal ("I fell in love in 1974 with the Cleopatra of Janet Suzman..."*) instead of didactic. And when he writes of "the ferocity of the most seductive woman in all of Shakespeare"* he is instantly identifying the appeal of the character and we know that Bloom's examination comes not from a dispassionate professorial point of view, but something deeply felt.

Other than Elizabeth Taylor's portrayal of the role on film, which I saw far too long ago, I don't know much about the play or the character.  This examination brings to light a good many arguments for seeing this produced on stage (by a company that knows how to perform Shakespeare well).  I was surprised in Chapter 15 by the look at the role of the Clown in the play.

It was not surprising that the Clown provides insight - this is common in Shakespeare - but the sexual attitudes and the provision of the means of death coming through the Clown strike me as unique among the Shakespeare plays I have seen.

More than ever I would like to see this play on stage and I tremendously appreciated this insightful look at the character.  I look forward to more individual Shakespeare character examinations by Harold Bloom.

Looking for a good book? Cleopatra: I am Fire and Air is a wonderful examination by Harold Bloom of an exotic and strong character in Shakespeare's canon.

* All quotes are from an Advance Reader Copy of the book and may not represent the published edition.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Cleopatra: I am Fire and Air by Harold Bloom takes a look at Shakespeares Cleopatra. I was expecting a biography on this once great queen and was a bit dissaponted. That being said, I feel this is an interesting book on Shakespeare's Cleopatra and would be good for fans of it.
Was this review helpful?
The full title of Harold Bloom’s ‘Cleopatra’ is ‘Cleopatra. I Am Fire and Air’, which is, of course, a reference to the speech in which she clasps an asp to her bosom in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, and it is with Shakespeare’s representation of Cleopatra that Bloom is exclusively concerned. 

Thus the historical Cleopatra gets relatively short shrift and Bernard Shaw’s ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ does not merit even a single mention. This is somewhat ironic given the fact that the publishing blurb tells us that Cleopatra “has been played by the greatest actresses of their time, from Elizabeth Taylor to Vivien Leigh to Janet Suzman to Judi Dench”, when Leigh is far better remembered for her 1946 incarnation of the Shavian Cleopatra on film, than for her stage appearances in the Shakespearean role.

Incidentally, although Suzman had a distinguished career on stage, television and in film I don’t think many would regard her as the greatest actress of her time although her inclusion in this exalted company and on the book’s cover is understandable given the fact that Bloom begins his book with the sentence, “I fell in love in 1974 with the Cleopatra of Janet Suzman”. 

I, too, saw Suzman as Cleopatra in that year, although at the time the woman embodying “astonishing sexual power” for me was not her but Valerie Leon in the Hai Karate ads. I guess it’s a case of whatever floats your barge …

There’s no disputing, however, that Bloom is a great critic, not least of Shakespeare, and it would be extremely odd if his book did not incandescently illuminate Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. Bloom’s understanding of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ and indeed of the entire Shakespearean canon means that the reader is provided with rich food for thought. 

Examination of Cleopatra’s “exalted apotheosis of self-immolation” is, for example, preceded by a learned disquisition on Shakespearean deaths on (Hamlet, Lear, Desdemona, Othello, Emilia) and off (Falstaff, Gloucester, Cordelia, Goneril, Reagan, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth) stage, albeit only for Bloom to admit that “That tragic Shakespearean procession has no particular pattern that I can discern”. 

The really frustrating thing about this book, however, is the imbalance between text and exegesis. Yes, there has to be quotation but when it is indulged in to this extent the reader may well feel short-changed. Thus in most chapters great gobbets of Shakespeare are merely garlanded by Bloom’s prose. In Chapter 6, to take an extreme example, that means – by my calculations – just 16 sentences of Bloom addressing 87 lines of Shakespeare.

In short, what one has here is a first-class essay masquerading as a book.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed reading Harold Bloom's passionate scholarship about a character as legendary as Cleopatra. He draws on years of close study to draw a portrait of a character who is multilayered and loses none of her complexity as her layers are peeled away and examined. 
Cleopatra read very well on its own; however, I think it will be most valuable as a companion piece while reading the play. It certainly increased my depth of understanding of Shakespeare's Cleopatra.
Was this review helpful?
Well-researched and intriguing look into the life and influence of Cleopatra.
Was this review helpful?
Book received from NetGalley.

I enjoyed this literary study about Cleopatra final pharaoh of the Ptolemy dynasty.  While Harold Bloom focuses mainly on Shakespeare's play he does bring in a few other fictional accounts of her rule.  I also liked how he mentioned the various actresses who portrayed her both on stage and screen.  I have to respectfully disagree with his favorite though since I have always been fond of Elizabeth Taylor's portrayal of the royal.  I think this would be a great reference for anyone who is currently studying Shakespeare's play.
Was this review helpful?
Cleopatra: I am Fire and Air
Harold Bloom
Publish review: Oct 3
Pub date: Oct 10

"What shall we call the mutual love of Cleopatra & Antony? In the first and in the last place it is sexual. The two supreme narcissists behold themselves more radiantly in the eyes of the other." 
Is this really why Bloom 'fell in love' with Cleopatra? I was under the impression that is what this book is about. Instead, within the first 2 chapters, all I take away from it is that Bloom only cares about the sexualization of Cleopatra.  I get he is focusing on "literary" aspects of her (and Cleopatra's sexuality is pretty much all you get from "classics") but he sounds more like he has bought into the negative propaganda of her character rather than reality. So far, he isn't reminiscing on why he fell in love with Cleopatra. He is reminiscing on how he fell in love with a false image of her created by the Romans and perpetuated by Shakespeare and Hollywood. And even saying that he reminisces is a stretch. He interprets what Shakespeare wrote about Cleopatra in his play. "Her imagination of Antony surpasses nature, and yet becomes nature's masterpiece." This is the kind of flowery and dramatic language that is interjected in between a multitude of quotes from Antony and Cleopatra. Yet descriptive language cannot hide the fact that this book is nothing more than well written scholastic cliff notes. If this is what he intended his book to be about then the synopsis is entirely misleading. This is not a work about the literary image of Cleopatra. This is a work about Shakespeare's version of Cleopatra. 
Let's revisit the synopsis I was given when I requested to review this work (because if I had known what it was actually about, I would have never bothered to request it): "Award winning writer and beloved professor Harold Bloom writes about Cleopatra with wisdom, joy, exuberance, and compassion. He also explores his own personal relationship to the character...Bloom explains his shifting understanding of Cleopatra over the course of his own lifetime. The book becomes an extraordinary moving argument for literature as a path to and measure of our own humanity."
Was Shakespeare the only author to ever write about Cleopatra? I was under the impression my bookshelf held many more authors than just Shakespeare. So how exactly, then, is this work about "an argument for literature as a path to and measure of our own humanity" when it touches on nothing more than a re-hashing of Shakespearean interpretations? This book offers nothing outside of Shakespeare. The synopsis should be edited to reflect that. The synopsis makes it sound like Bloom is going to offer literary viewpoints from varying authors and compare and contrast how they have changed over time. The book does none of that. 

Bloom is one of those scholars who wasn't in my field of study, so, up til now, I never read anything he wrote. However, his name often came to my attention from various sources and I had always heard praises. I was extremely excited when I stumbled across a new work by Bloom that was about Cleopatra, my favorite historical figure! If that is the mindset you have and are thinking about reading this book, don't. It offers nothing new to the imagery of Cleopatra and is by no means a historical work (not that it ever claims to be a history book, I just don't want people seeing Cleopatra's name in he title and thinking they are going to get history). 
If you are someone majoring in literature and have to write an analysis paper on 'Antony and Cleopatra', then this is the right book for you.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks for Netgalley and respective publishers.

I;ve read about Roman Empire alot and lots books over Caesar and Other Emperors.
"Anthony and Cleopatra" the great drama written by Shakespeare is one of the key factor in this book.
She was convincingly subtle and Cleaver woman in History
Every dialogue were epic and noticeable. 
Bravo ! ! ! !
Actually, Honorable Author's research was splendid.
He has taken different and focused dramatic approach towards the Greatest and Lovely Queen of Ancient Era- Cleopatra.
I liked the initiation although some spaces were unfilled and almost whole story.

More I know about Cleopatra, More I find myself near to that Era.
Was this review helpful?
Another in Bloom's studies of major Shakespeare characters (the first was on Falstaff), this is a reflection on a lifetime of watching productions  (his ur-version is Janet Suzman) and studying the text of Antony and Cleopatra.  The strength of this is his changing understanding over the years, while the weakness is clinging too tightly to the text--this is a role tremendously influenced not just by the context of women when Shakespeare wrote it, but whenever it is performed.  Bloom's only real nod to that is to wonder how any male Elizabethan ever pulled it off.
Was this review helpful?