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The Defeat of Death

A Reading of Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s "Cleopatra</I>

Afroditi-Maria Panaghis

The monograph reads Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s historical romance Cleopatra (1889) with the aim to delineate the last decade of the Victorian period, shed light on the attempt to forge identity, and demonstrate the author’s preoccupation with the concept of coincidentia oppositorum as the basic principle of life, death, and regeneration. Through the mythic figure of Cleopatra, the simulacrum of the goddess Isis, the writer underscores that death can be defeated and immortality attained. By simulating ancient Egypt, submerging in the unconscious, withdrawing from the ephemeral world and espousing the spiritual, he came to terms with his fear of mortality, rejuvenated his self, and redeemed his soul. In perusing the three papyri, discovered in the hero’s sarcophagus, the reader traces the progress from the Ptolemaic degenerate court to that of Isis.

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Chapter One: Introducing Sir Henry Rider Haggard and his Age

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Chapter One Introducing Sir Henry Rider Haggard and his Age THIS monograph endeavors a reading of Sir Henry Rider Haggard’s historical romance Cleopatra (1889), eclipsed to this day by scholars who have focused on his adventure novels. Its aim is to delineate the English political scene during the last decade of the Victorian period, shed light on his attempt to achieve identity, and underline his preoccupation with concepts such as the coincidentia oppositorum as the basic principle of life as well as death and regeneration. Moreover, by selecting the mythic figure of Cleopatra, the simulacrum of the goddess Isis, and identifying with her the writer demonstrates that death can be defeated, rebirth is possible, immortality is within reach, and his fear of mortality is overcome. Haggard was born on the 22nd of June 1856 and died in 14th May of 1925. He lived and wrote during the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth thus his work blends conventional Victorian attitudes and ideas with fin-de-siècle and modern characteristics. At the age of thirty-four, he was famous and widely read, and published around three books a year. The settings of his books range from Africa to Iceland and the South Seas. He wrote three plays and ten works of non-fiction besides numerous narratives which are divided into novels and romances: the former, are set in England and deal with life in the country while the latter, depict far away exotic places.1 He also experimented...

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