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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 Three: The Birth and Initiation of Harmachis

Extract

Chapter Three The Birth and Initiation of Harmachis CLEOPATRA is set historically in the Ptolemaic era and geographically in ancient Egypt, specifically in the cities of Abouthis, Annu, Memphis, and Alexandria, and revolves around the survival of a dynasty bloodline protected by the Priesthood of Isis. The main character, Harmachis, the living descendant, is appointed by the Priesthood to overthrow the impostor, Cleopatra, end the Ptolemaic rule, drive out the Romans, and restore Egypt to its golden age. As is the case with the majority of Haggard's works, the story draws heavily upon adventure that takes place in the distant land of Khem, Egypt. It is recounted from the point of view of the Egyptian prince/priest Harmachis in hieroglyphic and is written on papyri scrolls which are discovered buried in his sarcophagus. But the romance also deals with the witty and treacherous Cleopatra whose overwhelming presence evokes effectively contradictory feelings of sympathy and loathing. Haggard’s romance may very well be read as an adventure story because it appeals to what Nicholas Daly calls a “stronger sense of spatial mastery through the motifs of the survey and the map.” In fact, like many of his other works, it brings to the reader’s mind the British conquest of overseas land and uses the journey through the particular space to represent a trip in time since the writer takes us back to the Ptolemaic period.1 the territory papyrus no longer precedes the map romance, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map romance...

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