Antony and Cleopatra are two of the most famous lovers in history. If you want a short and entertaining look at the personality of Cleopatra read this blog post. It is hard not to see Antony as a boorish brute and Cleopatra as a more rounded personality with modern eyes. She did not look much like the picture above.
Shakespeare says she has a “tawny front” but she was descended from the Ptolemies so was probably Greek in appearance if anything. Here is a coin from her reign:
There are other coins that make her look bull-necked. Some give her a more pronounced nose. This is a little beside the point because the attraction of a woman (or a man, I hope) is not in her physical perfection but in her qualities of mind and character.
This is something that Shakespeare captures well. Enobarbus’s famous speech declares: age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety. That is the very definition of a fascinating woman and as we see her portrayed through the action we see her using all kinds of wiles to enchant and fascinate her lover.
When I was teaching Shakespeare I used to ask my students directly, “Can you remember what you said to your boy or girlfriend when you first asked them out?” Shakespeare’s language can sometimes be a barrier to young people today, but if you ask them to imagine what it would be like to be spoken to in passionate poetry. . . well, it all starts to make sense.
If you want a taste of infinte variety perhaps Love is for you.