Did you know...?

Antony and Cleopatra (1953) Michael Redgrave Peggy Ashcroft. Photo by Angus McBean © Angus McBean Collection
  • Cleopatra was not in fact Egyptian but a member of the Macedonian Greek family, the Ptolemies, and had been married to her younger brother, Ptolemy III.

  • Cleopatra had previously been mistress to Julius Caesar, and had born him a son. She also had three children, including twins, by Mark Antony

  • Shakespeare's source for the story is the Life of Marcus Antonius in Plutarch's Lives of the Most Noble Grecians and Romans translated by Thomas North in 1579.

  • Legend tells us that the first meeting of Antony and Cleopatra took place when she had herself carried to him wrapped in a carpet which was unfurled in front of him.

  • Octavius Caesar went on to establish a peace that endured throughout his long reign and became Augustus Caesar in 27 BC.

  • He is the Emperor whose decree led to Joseph taking his pregnant wife Mary to Bethleham to be recorded for a census.

  • Until the Restoration in 1660, Cleopatra would have been performed on stage by a young male actor.

  • Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor appeared in a famously sumptuous film adaptation called simply Cleopatra in 1963 - a film which was itself lampooned as Carry on Cleo the following year.

  • The asp with which Cleopatra kills herself was sacred to the Egyptian royal family and was believed to deify those it struck.

  • Cleopatra's death brought to an end the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt as Octavius killed Caesarion and took Antony's three children back to Rome in triumph. He annexed Egypt as part of the Roman empire.

Compiled by Kath Bradley, MPhil (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham) © RSC
Kath has worked for the RSC in a variety of roles since 2005.
Photo by Angus McBean shows Michael Redgrave (Antony) and Peggy Ashcroft (Cleopatra) in the RSC's 1953 production © Angus McBean Collection

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