Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Martina Sciolino

Advisor Department



While there is no doubt that Cleopatra is considered a notable historical figure and popularly regarded character throughout modern media, there is a distinct pattern in her portrayal throughout time as a woman whose power is defined by her sexual promiscuity. Even throughout periods of powerful female monarchs, political change, and social progress her prowess as a leader has been assumingly attributed to her affairs with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. The purpose of this study is to examine how literature and media has contributed to this sexualized reputation of a queen who yielded authority over such a prosperous nation. This study additionally seeks to explain Cleopatra’s ranging cultural representations in performance and multimedia by closely examining these appropriations in their relevant historical contexts.

Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra portrays a culturally exotic queen plainly ruled by both her passions and the men in her life. Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s immortalized film Cleopatra uses the scandalously renowned Elizabeth Taylor to display the queen as a fair sexual object capable solely of political manipulation. The bestselling videogame Dante’s Inferno represents Cleopatra as a discolored beastly creature capable of seducing her victims for the gains of Lucifer himself. Each of these works present the figure of a foreign queen in divergent historical contexts. Considering these various forms of media, this study argues that each of these representations has in some way contributed to Cleopatra’s iconicity in western culture as an image of uninhibited female sexuality.