Gender Politics. Racial Politics. Power Politics. Some of our paradigmatic models reconsidered.
Cleopatra: Dairy of a Goddess, Kali, Daughter of Ra
By Patricia Sohn
The screen play presents itself as a diary of Cleopatra living in an earlier period, approximately 4000 B.C.E., as Isis. She is married to Julius, who is, during that period, Osiris. It is the story of their attempt to build a new democracy out of the ashes of the democratic village-states that her African and mixed-race family had established in the Nile Delta region, and which had, over time, become known as Egypt. Egypt is split into a northern and a southern kingdom upon the establishment of a racial regime in the Delta region, made possible by the holocaust of her natal and extended families. Cleopatra and Julius flee in exile through through the area currently known as Ethiopia and to the area currently known as Yemen. There, they establish the first Camelot (“Establishment of the Jewel”), albeit with its own fissures and tensions.
The screen play addresses racial, religious, gender, and democratic politics. It is the story of the inner-workings of a family from inside their own polygamous household. In that time, because men’s life spans could be cut quite short from war or disease, and women lived significantly longer with the children, it was not completely out of the ordinary for a household to have two husbands and a wife as an adaptive measure. It also allowed for a wider blood line in the first husband’s name. The relationship between Julius and their second husband is secondary to his marriage to Cleopatra, although it came first, historically; the man was his closest and most trusted friend in battle and in politics long before he and Cleopatra met. Cleopatra consents to this arrangement out of love for Julius, who saved her from certain doom in the ashes of the palace where her family has been assassinated by invaders in Egypt. Thus, the screen play includes some messages regarding the politics of sexual identity — for men more than for women. That is, Cleopatra loves her husband, Julius, like the Earth and the Sky. Julius loves her the same way; he loves them both. Her relationship with the second husband is harmonious and loving, but not of the same nature as her love for Julius. As with many polygamous marriages, as co-spouses, they are symbiotic in their support for the family. There is no sex in the screen play. It is the story of the daily life of a family. The screen play is chaste. The polygamy aspect of the screen play is also only one part; it is also largely about political dynamics and building one of the first democratic cities, modeled on the early Nile Delta democratic villages that became Egypt, in what is now Sana’a.
The polygamy part of the screen play began in some ways as my own personal rejoinder to polygamy more broadly: If men wanted more than one wife, then women should be able to have the same! It became more serious as I explored the issue. The account is a fictionalized treatment of an interesting question, and one that ends with a focus on the everyday life, synergistic aspects of the co-spouse relationship, something that is reflected as well (although not exclusively) in the contemporary academic literature on the Middle East regarding polygamy among co-wives. The polygamous marriage in the screen play creates problems in the end, and some confusion. There is an Isis-Osiris-Horus dynamic to the relationship. By the end, Cleopatra loves the second husband (a Horus figure) well. And, when Julius is killed, they care for one another and the children. Meanwhile, Cleopatra becomes empress of what they have built together and called Rome, named after Rama, one of the names of Julius/Osiris. But, when it is her turn to die, how will Cleopatra answer to the Call of two husbands?? Will her soul and her life-path in her subsequent lives be torn by her marital bond, now, to more than one man? Will she become an Inanna figure, one life here, one life there; or, worse, half a life here, half a life there? Neither man agrees to give her up for the other. And the symbiotic co-spouse relationship of this life does not show signs of being repeated in the next, as each man becomes more territorial and wants a life and home with her to themselves. For her soul, it means emotional torment — not at all justified, but realistically present nonetheless. Indeed, Julius and Horus may enjoy the battle in subsequent lives. She will not. This part of my fictionalized exploration of the issue is influenced by several religions, including Kabbalah, Buddhism, Islam, and others.
The screen play offers a deep (fictionalized) cultural context including textiles and clothing, foods, religious context for the period, landscape, as well as social and political context. It offers a set of memoirs. And it makes a number of additional suggestions.
If you are interested in reading the screen play, please contact me. Thank you!