George Bernad Shaw was an Irish playwright,critic,polemiscist and political activist.He had incorporated both contemporary satire and historical allegory,Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.He wrote more than sixty plays ,including major works such as “Man and Superman” (1902), “Pygmalion” (1912), and “Saint Joan” (1923).Shaw’s view about administration was “ good people will make good laws,but good laws passed by a few do not necessarily make a good society”. “Ceasar and Cleopatra” is one of his play written in 1898 that depicts a fictionalized account of the relation between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.It was first published in 1901 in a volume called “Three Plays For Puritans”, which also contained “The Devil’s Disciple” and “Captain Brassbound’s Conversion” and a preface headed ‘ Why For Puritan’s’.
In Shaw’s play “Caesar and Cleopatra”, Caesar is presented as a merciful man whose aim it was to reconcile his enemies by treating them with clemency and fighting against the spirit of revenge.This account give the impression of Caesar as a great leader. There were occasions when he put justice before mercy and he was also ruthless in dealing with evil doers. ( on the contrary) Shakespear’s purpose was to create a tragedy of human love on the contrary Shaw’s aim was to show a soldier statesman’s attempt to turn a crude and spiteful teenager in to a responsible queen .( shaw says in the preface ) Shakespeare who knew human weakness s well ,never knew human strength of the Caesarian type. Ceasar also taught his own colleagues that clemency is the best policy. Shakespear’s Ceasar is an admitted failure.
In history, Gaius Julius Ceasar was a Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire.It is at this point,late in the year 48 BC , that Bernad Shaw’s “Caesar and Cleopatra” begins.Beyond recording the historical facts that ,Ceasar remained in Egypt for some nine months and he won the Alexandrine war. Shakepeare wrote according to his own knightly conception of a great statesman commander.A German historian Theodore Mommsen , who also takes Caesar for his hero and explains immense differene in scope between the perfect knight Vercingetorix and his great conqueror Julius Caesar.In contrast to Mark Antony,the man of passion ,Shaw opposes Julius Ceasar , cast as the man of reason and shows him as, managing Cleopatra instead of being managed by her.
As a romantic writer,Shakespeare takes a wider and more embracing view ,recognizing that in human nature ,reason is always under attack by passion and that even the greatest of mankind may be overwhelmed by unreason.In contrast to this view , Bernad Shaw through the characterization of Caesar established the principle that passion in its various aspects must be disciplined and controlled by reason.Shaw also alludes that the power of empires does not last for ever.Caesar is depicted as confident,humorous and determined that since Cleopatra is queen she shall behave as queen ,when he restores her to the throne from which she has been driven.In this play,Shaw gives the example of an ideal leader in the modern age.When Cleopatra says that Caesar will know that she is queen by her crown and robes,he answers that he will know her by ‘her pride ,her courage,her majesty, and her beauty.’Although he is a great leader he acts as a confidante for young queen Cleopatra.
The play have a prologue and an alternative prologue .The prologue consists of the Egyptian God Ra,addressing the audience directly, he says that Pompey represent the old Rome. God Ra remarks in the prologue ; “Caesar ,for he lived the life they had given him boldly and was not for ever rebuking us for our indecent ways of creation”.By this statement Shaw teaches the audience about the qualities of a good leader and how leader must behave.Ceasar know well how to protect his country,how to lead his companions,to teach the young and to survive each day.Caesar can easily adapt to new situations .In contrast to Shakespear’s Caesar ,Shaw presents Caesar who demonstrated no weakness and it makes Caesar a unique leader.Caesar always consoles Cleopatra and he says that “You must confront him as a brave woman and a great queen;and you must not feel no fear” (Act 1).Caesar motivates her by saying that “ cast out fear and you will conquer Caesar…” from this dialogue we can understand his self worth.
In Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar,we find a picture of Ceasar that reduces him to a mere petty self glorifier.Shaw’s Ceasar is not a reformer of codes but the man who has outgrown them.He stands for progress not in the political and social, but in evolutionary sense.Shaw’s Caesar and Shakespeare’s Caesar are simply two different man.The purpose of the play “Ceasar and Cleopatra” is to draw a great man in history.Ceasar is an exceptional human being in whom we find a harmonious blending of many contrary elements.He is a conqueror whose business is to conquer countries by cruel bloodshed but he is full of clemency and is averse to murder.We can also consider Caesar as a civilizer too.Bernad Shaw is a believer in social democratic principles and in self realization as a natural virtue he admired Ceasar, for he saw in him the practical statesman and a hero.Shakespeare is less interested in portraying a figure of legendary greatness than he is creating a character who is consistent with the other aspects of his drama. To conclude, Shaw uses the historical figure to present the essential qualities, he thinks a leader must possess in the modern age and that is very different from that of Shakespeare.