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Cleopatra

I Am Fire and Air

Harold Bloom (View Bio)
Hardcover: Scribner, 2017.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air is the second in a sequence of five brief volumes, “Shakespeare’s Personalities.”  The first was Falstaff: Give Me Life and the others are King Lear: The Great Image of Authority, April 2018; Iago: Nothing If Not Critical, Oct. 2018; Macbeth: A Dagger of the Mind, April 2019.

Harold Bloom starts fresh with five of Shakespeare’s personalities endless to meditation, extending an open hand to readers who desire to find themselves in Shakespeare and Shakespeare in themselves. The reader and playgoer will gain an intensified awareness of the reality of great selves that differ from us only in vividness and sheer amplitude of being.

From one of the greatest Shakespeare scholars of our time, comes an intimate, wise, deeply compelling portrait of Cleopatra—one of the Bard’s most riveting and memorable female characters.

Cleopatra is one of the most famous women in history, and thanks to Shakespeare, one of the most intriguing personalities in literature. She is lover of Marc Antony, defender of Egypt, and, perhaps most enduringly, a champion of life. Cleopatra is supremely vexing, tragic, and complex. She has fascinated readers and audiences for centuries and has been played by the greatest actresses of their time, from Elizabeth Taylor to Vivien Leigh to Janet Suzman to Judi Dench.

An award-winning writer and beloved professor, Bloom writes about Cleopatra with wisdom, joy, exuberance, and compassion. He also explores his own personal relationship to the character: Just as we encounter one Anna Karenina or Jay Gatsby when we are in high school and college and another when we are adults, Bloom explains his shifting understanding of Cleopatra over the course of his own lifetime. The book becomes an extraordinarily moving argument for literature as a path to and a measure of our own humanity.

Bloom is mesmerizing in the classroom, wrestling with the often tragic choices Shakespeare’s characters make. With Cleopatra, he delivers exhilarating clarity and invites us to look at this character as a flawed human who might be living in our world. The result is an invaluable resource from our greatest literary critic.