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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 Two: Framing Haggard’s Cleopatra

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Chapter Two Framing Haggard’s Cleopatra SIR Henry Rider Haggard, like most of his contemporaries, considered the philosophical and religious frameworks that supported the Victorian age inadequate. After a long investigation he concluded that the kind of truth that would be useful to humans was factual and less doctrinal, and that it could be achieved through a long and painful process of searching instead of a sudden beatific vision. Given the fact that human beings have to look hard for the truth, the question that usually arises is where are they supposed to turn? One answer asserts that truth is that inner state which unravels the meaning of everything that happens and touches our life; thus its discovery is an unveiling of what already exists within. Actually, the writer’s oeuvre implied that truth is situated within and that it is highly unlikely that it could be obtained in any of the far off geographic places he presented. Still there is another answer to the above query that suggests that truth is to be found in remote locales or ancient worlds as demonstrated by the protagonists of She who quest for an inner truth symbolized by the ruined Temple of Truth in the lost city of Kor. In the central court we are told stood the statue of Truth portrayed as a covered goddess with an inscription that read “by death only can thy veil be drawn, oh Truth.”1 And even though there are hardships that have to be surmounted, we...

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