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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 Six: The Return and Revenge of Harmachis

Extract

Chapter Six The Return and Revenge of Harmachis THIS chapter deals with the third and last papyrus and delineates the escape of Harmachis from Cleopatra’s court as well as his return to carry out his new mission. When Brennus was interrogated, after Harmachis’ flight, he said that he saw the latter spread his robes and ascend to heaven, and everyone in court believed him because they knew that the latter possessed magic powers. This tale travelled all over Egypt and many prayed that whenever he returned the land would be free and that what had happened was the result of divine will. During his journey back to Abouthis, the sailors reckoned the hero was a wizard because he sat cloaked and alone, and fearing some harm will come to them they decided to sacrifice him to the god of the sea. He defied them and declared that they would perish if they dared harm him but they did not heed his words and pushed him into the raging waves. Although on the one hand he was glad that they did because down deep he wished to die still on the other, he felt deeply ashamed for having failed and betrayed his goddess, his father, the rebels, and his country as well as overwhelmed with terror since death would bring him into the presence of Isis.1 A fishing boat rescued and took him to a house where he was told that his left leg was broken by the waves and that...

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