Date of Thesis

Spring 2022


This thesis explores and analyzes Horace’s Ode 1.37 and Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in context of their poetic and theatrical narratives, word choice, and grammatical structures in an effort to form a clearer image of Cleopatra VII. While each work is placed within its historical settings, I do not pursue their historical ‘truths.’ Rather, I draw from the authors’ literary conceptions about the Ruler, from Horace’s inpotens (“a woman lacking in self-control”) to fierce agency in deciding death (“deliberata morte ferocior”), to Shakespeare’s ‘othering’ of Cleopatra as tawny, gypsy, and whore, to his portrayals of her as Goddess and Isis. Ultimately, both Horace and Shakespeare fashion Cleopatra according to ancient Roman and Early Modern ideological opposing constructs, such as male versus female, native versus foreign, sexually pure versus sexually indulgent, and more. In an attempt at both challenging and fusing Horace and Shakespeare’s literary narratives with an ancient Egyptian archeological framework, I return to Cleopatra’s representations on coinage as well as inscriptions, while contemplating her own perspectives as possibilities for historical reimagination of a woman and woman in power. By looking to her self-representations, we discover a Queen represented as Egyptian, Greek, female, queen and king, and more. In order to amplify her silenced voice, we must reimagine her narrative by returning to the primary sources she left behind. Only then can a just representation of Cleopatra be formed.


Cleopatra, Horace, Shakespeare, Women in Power, Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity, Egyptian Material Culture

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts


Classics & Mediterranean Studies

Second Major


First Advisor

Ashli Baker

Second Advisor

Jean Peterson