Cleopatra

by Erika Cox
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In 1963, the highest grossing film of the year was Cleopatra, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Cleopatra tells the story of the Queen of Egypt of the same name and her struggles to resist the Roman imperial takeover.

The film starred Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall, and Martin Landau, and although it was one of the most popular of the year, it is also famous for nearly causing 20th Century Fox to go bankrupt.

Cleopatra opens with Rome's defeat of Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus. Pompey then hopes to enlist the help of a young ruler, Pharoah Ptolemy XII, and his sister, Cleopatra, from Egypt. In early October of 48 BC, Caesar follows them to Alexandria, Egypt.

Ptolemy's advisors warn that the Roman soldiers will fight their way to the palace, which will enrage the Egyptian public. However, they do not, and Ptolemy orders Pompey killed to please Caesar.

As Caesar settles into his room, Pollodorus brings him a rug as a gift from Cleopatra. When he unrolls is, Cleopatra is hidden within the rug. They exchange angry words, and Cleopatra leaves, but secretly spies on Caesar.

The Roman soldiers having taken over the castle, Cleopatra gets into an angry confrontation with Caesar and demands entry to her throne room. She tells Caesar that her brother has had the castle surrounded with the Egyptian army, but he believes the Romans inside can hold them off. They then orders that fleet be burned so he can control the harbor.

The fire spreads to the city, bit Caesar refuses to stop fighting Ptolemy's army to put out the fire. Cleopatra again angrily confronts Caesar, and in the middle of the fight, Caesar begins violently kissing Cleopatra.

Outside, Ptolemy's troops attack, and the Romans, with reinforcements, finally defeat the Egyptian army. Caesar passes judgment and declares Cleopatra queen of the country. Ptolemy and his tutor are sent out to join the troops, which will certainly lead to death. Cleopatra and Caesar discuss together the future of Egypt, and she promises to bear him many sons.

Later, the continue talking about ruling the world together, and Cleopatra announces that she is pregnant. The son is born and Caesar accepts him publicly, which astonished the Roman government. He returns home and is made dictator, and two years later sends for Cleopatra, who is well loves by the Roman citizens.

The government begins to worry that Caesar seeks too much power, and he is attacked and killed by the senators on his way to Senate. Octavian is name his heir, instead of the Cleopatra's son Caesarion, who is the rightful heir.

She decides to leave Rome, and after the battle of Philippi, many of Caesar's assassins are killed. The empire is split up between Marc Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus.

Antony meets with Cleopatra, who warns him to watch out for Octavian. He gets drunk and it is apparent that he desires Cleopatra. She sneaks out, having a slave girl double for her, but he realizes her trickery and goes to her chamber, demanding that he be given the proper respect, not treated like a child in the shadow of Caesar.

She admits that she has love been in love with him and he says that he is in love with her as well. However, Antony is later tricked into marrying Octavian's sister and Cleopatra, feeling betrayed, returns home in anger. When he next sees her, she demands payment for previous help and Octavian declares war against Antony and his Egyptian mistress.

During a battle, Cleopatra sees Antony's ships burning and orders a retreat. Antony thinks that she is abandoning his and their relationship is scarred. After fighting in Alexandria, the army is no longer confident in their leader.

Cleopatra goes into hiding in the tomb and Pollodorous, who does not like Antony, convinces him that she is dead. He commits suicide, believing his world is over, and dies in Cleopatra's arms. She is taken prisoner by Octavian.

Cleopatra, not wishing to be Octavian's prize, finds out that her son is also dead and arranges for her own murder. Her maids bring her a basket of fruit with a snake inside, which bites her and causes her death in the end.

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