SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF CLEOPATRA by Mary Butts

SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF CLEOPATRA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The publisher's biographical note for Mary Butts' resurrected novel is a summary of famous artists she knew in London and Paris, where Robert McAlmon's little press brought out her first book. Mysteriously little is said about her ""substantial body of work"" that includes this re-do of Cleopatra written (overwritten) in contention with historians who have taken the measure of the Queen of the Nile and found her no more than a ""crowned courtesan"" sadly lacking in honor or intelligence. Butts' scenes are stylized, highly rhetorical retellings of Cleopatra's calculated (by this version) seduction of Caesar, the birth of their son, her stay in Rome as his never to be formalized concubine, the return to Alexandria where she ruled as wisely and well as any male of the Lagid line, her later love affair with Mark Antony by whom she bore three children -- and Butts makes haste to say she was a good mother. Most of the incidents are third, person narrations from letters, musings, conversations -- and that ""touch of Regency vitality"" Butts borrows from ""gossip-column historian"" Weigall doesn't go far to make up for the lack of dramatic presence. A clumsy antique, but charming for its age as well as for the feminized view of the tragic lady of the asp as stateswoman, self-sacrificing wife, loving mother -- a Cleopatra that only an earlier 20th century woman writer could devise.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1975
Publisher: Ecco -- dist. by Viking