Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air

Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air is prolific literary critic and Shakespearean scholar Harold Bloom's continuation of his portrait series concerning monumental Shakespearean figures. While untangling the appeal of this infamous femme fatale is not a new endeavor, Bloom's effort focuses on expounding upon the hints Shakespeare gives in his play Antony and Cleopatra. Instead of asserting any answers, he advances questions that serve to illuminate this captivating figure more than define her. Throughout, he returns to the key point of Cleopatra's character that is both fact and question: "She is and she is not. Can so great an actress always know when she is or is not acting?"

Bloom takes on an intimate persona as he weaves his observations into selections from the play. Most astonishing is Bloom's delicate writing that so efficiently and effortlessly communicates his often complex insights. He muses casually on the concept of Cleopatra as a paradoxical enigma, a giver that "famishes the taker. She beguiles and she devastates." Not unlike the woman herself, the prose in Cleopatra: I Am Fire and Air both satisfies and teases the reader. This all-too-brief invitation into how Bloom reads and envisions Cleopatra educates and entertains, but also leaves the audience wishing they might have Bloom's poetic commentary alongside everything they read. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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