Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What if Cleopatra's Son had Lived?

My students are doing Julius Caesar in my English class. I don't know how many remember this Shakespearean gem but it's not the easiest play to teach. No teenage lovers, no cross gendered farces, or crazy sons seeing the ghosts of their fathers. No. A political drama. Sweet. So I bribe them by watching the TNT version of Julius Caesar to get them ready. I figure if I give them blood and gore, they'll let me hammer them with Shakespearean remorse for killing one's best friend.

While watching the movie this time (which makes no mention whatsoever of the Egyptian queen) I started looking up Cleopatra on my own. I mean, I'd seen the movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and (clearing throat) Rex Harrison. So where did she fall in in the story? Through this little journey I found out a few facts I hadn't known before:

1.) Cleopatra was not Egyptian. She was Greek. In fact, the Greeks had controlled Egypt for three hundred years and she was one of the only rulers who had actually taken the time to learn the language.

2.) She was twenty when Julius Caesar marched in planning to take Egypt. He'd taken everywhere else and fresh off of the triumph of Gaul and having taken the armies of Pompey (his former son in law). He was 51 (a military leader. In Roman Times. 51! Incredible). She knew she couldn't keep him out so she went to meet him to welcome him.

3.) 9 months later, she had a son. A son! Julius Caesar and Cleopatra had a son -- his only son and one of his only children.

4.) When he marched Cleopatra and his son back to Rome, she became one of the most hated women in Rome. Even Cicero recorded the loathing of the people towards this mistress who was sure Julius Caesar would name her son -- his son -- as heir, that she would one day rule Rome. But then, the Senators stabbed him and Caesar had already named his nephew Octavius.

5.) When she went back to Egypt, she named her son "king of Kings" to spite Octavius.

6.) We know that Mark Antony came to her defense when Octavius marched on Egypt, we know that they became legendary lovers and that they both killed themselves when it became clear that Octavius would take Egypt. But did we all know that Mark Antony was actually married to Octavius's daughter?!
So. Cleopatra killed herself with an Asp and sent her son to a neighboring friendly country who sold him to Octavius who of course killed him. Or did he? It's interesting food for thought. No one actually knows how Caesarean met his end which is interesting considering that we know how everyone else ended their legendary times on earth. This was Caesar's only son and not just a son, a son with famed Cleopatra -- what a kid! So... the story goes that Augustus (Octavius) Caesar said "One Caesar too many" and strangled the 17 year old boy but... I'm not convinced. Why do it? Especially when you owed the kid's father everything? And he had no one and was only 17? Sure, he could have come back and gathered armies, if he survived

I like to think that we don't know how he died because Octavius wanted it that way. Because maybe the famed son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar did live, that he did things we can't even imagine.

I like to think this because Octavius is grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttt grandpa. And Mark Antony is too. And Caesarean is my ggggrrrrreeeeeeeeaaaaaat cousin.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dear Paul McCartney

... there are no words for the euphoria enjoyed on March 31st at the Hollywood Bowl. I'll be honest, it seemed unthinkable that you and I could share a moment when I used to stare at old vinyl records in 7th grade that were already 20 years old. You've been the man in my life. The Beatles have been my stalwart, magical uncles always there, picking me up, dusting me off, "Come on girl... it's not that serious..." and there you were again. You and me. And you were telling me the same things you've always told me but they mean more now. Because you're older. I'm older. The advice, the fact that we've carried on and that the messages are still the same -- it all means more now. I'm glad I didn't see you when I was fifteen and crazy for you. I'm glad I didn't see you when it would have been convenient in my 20's . You weren't ready. You couldn't bear to sing those songs yet, to hear those words again. I wasn't ready. There was still so much of my life you were going to see me through. I needed to go through it and I did. I'm still alive. So are you. And we're on the other side of so much now. Thank you for scanning the audience, for embracing the messages, for being there again, and ever, and always.
You'll never know.
Or maybe you do.

ps. Thanks to Corissa who made it all possible, for kicking my butt, for telling me it was time.