"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety"

Bust of Cleopatra VII at Altes Museum in Berlin.

This marble bust is believed to be the real Queen Cleopatra. If you're a fan of Hollywood's version, perhaps you'll be disappointed - this Cleopatra is no more or less beautiful than the average person.


Accounts of early historians support that Egypt's most famous queen was not some unsurpassable beauty; Plutarch wrote that her looks "were not such as to strike all who saw her."


But being physically gorgeous was never Cleopatra's special power. It was her charisma along with her political and sexual power that made her irresistible to men, including two of the most famous men who ever lived: Julius Caesar and Marc Antony.


Supposedly, she was intensely charming. She had personality and presence. She was commanding, magnetic, mysterious, witty, fickle, hard to pin down—this is exactly the complicated, awesome Cleopatra that Shakespeare brings to life.


She's larger than life. So is Antony. While Romeo and Juliet takes place in the small, insular world of their home city, Antony and Cleopatra is a huge, expansive play. From Egypt to Rome, the entire world is their stage where we watch them live and fall.