This is a piece I had written for a competition held by my writing group based on Queen Cleopatra. I had never written a play script before and I enjoyed it! It gave me the idea of doing a series of short plays based on women who have challenged society.
I never got round to it, but this piece got me a special mention from the judge so it left me chuffed. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think!
I am Pharaoh.
(Dark stage. The sound of an ink pen scribbling on a page, continues for a minute. Pause. Light begins to shine on a golden Egyptian throne that is close to the edge of the stage.)
Cleopatra: (A woman dressed in royal robes walks across the stage and sits down)
I am a mystery. You see me everywhere and you think you know me. You think you know the world I lived and ruled.
(Looks to the left and to the right)
I have no equal. None before me or after me, shall there be.
(Pause, the sound of ink pen scribbling on a page resumes)
History obscures me, distorts and misshapes me.
(Two handmaidens scurry in and begin to dress her, bracelets, anklets, headdress and eyeliner. They scurry away. Cleopatra smiles.)
Do you recognise me now? I wonder… would you prefer this version of me…
(Holds up left hand, a sexualised version of Cleopatra is revealed under spotlight)
…or this version of me.
(Hold up right hand, illuminates Cleopatra as goddess. Lowers hands and the spotlights fades)
Or is it by my husbands that you think of me?
(Portraits of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony are illuminated on the far ends of the stage and fades again)
(Cleopatra looks down at her hands and outstretched them to the audience)
I confess that these hands are stained with blood. But these very same hands have carried this nation, my Egypt against the tide of oblivion. Even against my own family have I carried out the will of a Pharaoh. Against foolish men have I protected her and against that would enslave her, have I kept Egypt free.
(Two handmaidens scurry in again and take off her jewellery and wipe off her make up, but they leave the crown on the throne and take their places as the lights illuminate a golden chamber. Cleopatra walks over to a table and picks up a goblet and drinks)
They all hated my womanhood and kingship. That I would dare to rule and do it better than them. Surely it should not have come as a surprise, I am my father’s daughter after all.
That I would dare to love and for that they will make my name a byword for fornication.
As if that would offend me, not every woman aspires to purity…
(Cleopatra looks at the throne and walks toward it)
…Nor did I give myself away for free. They thought my greatest weapon was who I bedded. Such is their limited vision. My father’s gift to me was eyes unclouded, to see where power resides and a mind trained to be more than what others can only glimpse. You do not keep a throne by divine right alone.
(The sound of a baby crying draws Cleopatra’s attention. Cleopatra commands a maidservant)
See to him.
(The sounds of a baby crying fades away.)
I am a good mother. I nursed each and every one of them. Three boys and a girl, born in this very room, on that very bed!
(Cleopatra points to her bed. Cleopatra turns her attention back to the throne and touches it reverently)
I am Egypt. I am Pharaoh, I am woman, mother, lover, I am all these things and more. But for some I am unholy, I am not what woman, mother, lover or Pharaoh is supposed to be.
(Cleopatra looks to the audience)
Does the idea of a woman in power still offend you? Her sexuality unsettling?
(Cleopatra put her crown back on her head and takes her throne. Light fades from the background and only Cleopatra is left on the stage)
History is messy and untrustworthy and only tells you one side of the story. You will never know the truth of who I am, what makes me laugh or cry. Why I decided to take this crown and place it upon my own head, so you must be satisfied with the myth and the legend of Queen Cleopatra. And whatever you make of me, an idol, a moral conundrum, or woman who created herself, know this…
(Cleopatra takes a deep breath)
I am Pharaoh.
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Photo by Martin Widenka on Unsplash