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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 Four: The Rise of Harmachis


Chapter Four The Rise of Harmachis AS Harmachis prepares to travel to Alexandria he ponders on the moment when he will overthrow the occupier, Cleopatra, free Egypt, “[mount] the throne that is [his] heritage, and cleanse the temples of [his] Gods.” The reader witnesses the hero’s readiness to take on the struggle for the liberation of Khem, his strengthened confidence as well as “triumph written on [his] brows. The future stretch[ing] forth of glory from [his] feet—ay, glittering with glory like Sihor in the sun” (75). In the meantime, he continued to perfect his knowledge of weapons, read about the stars and magic, commune with his Mother Isis, plan new temples, and consider “restoring great laws that [he] would put forth for [his] people’s weal” (76). Concurrently, Sepa circulated the rumor that his health was failing and that he had to move to Alexandria to be next to the sea while in fact his stay there would help him assess the political situation and gather information about the glorious court of Cleopatra. In this way, he blurred the real intention of his visit which was no other but to add, together with Harmachis, the final touches to the conspiracy. When Harmachis visits his father before setting off for Alexandria he not only receives his blessing he is also alerted of the “danger [that lies] in his path [that] comes in the form of woman,” and is thus advised to keep on praying to the goddess for protection. The...

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