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Julius Caesar

Approximate Running Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes, with 2 intermissions

In Italian with English captions

What's Going On?

Egypt under the joint rule of Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy, 48 B.C.

Julius Caesar has pursued his enemy Pompey into Egypt and defeated his armies. Pompey’s wife Cornelia and son Sextus are taken under Caesar’s protection, and Caesar even offers to forgive Pompey if he surrenders directly to him. But Ptolemy, Pompey’s ally and joint ruler of Egypt, sends Pompey’s head to Caesar. Horrified by this act, Caesar tells Ptolemy’s general Achillas (who brought the head) that he will punish Ptolemy for this deed.

At the Egyptian court, Cleopatra learns of Caesar’s conquests and resolves to seduce the Roman in her bid to become the sole ruler of Egypt. Meanwhile, Achillas tells Ptolemy that his gift earned him Caesar’s anger. Achillas offers to kill Caesar and win Ptolemy sole power over Egypt if Achillas can have Pompey’s wife Cornelia for his bride. Ptolemy agrees to this bargain.

Cleopatra arrives at Caesar’s camp disguised as a servant named Lydia. She enlists Caesar’s aid against Ptolemy. Mourning the loss of her husband, Cornelia attempts suicide but her son Sextus stops her. He vows to avenge his father and the pair plot to kill Ptolemy. Cleopatra overhears their plans and promises to help them gain entry into the palace.

Once in the palace, however, Cornelia and Sextus are captured. Cornelia is sent to the seraglio while Sextus is imprisoned. Ptolemy decides to take Cornelia for himself, cheating Achillas. Cleopatra’s servant Nirenus frees Sextus and advises the young man that the best time to take his revenge is when Ptolomy is in the seraglio with Cornelia.

Cleopatra has several meetings with Caesar in the palace. The pair fall in love and Caesar asks Cleopatra to marry him. She finally reveals her true identity. Caesar’s friend Curius arrives to warn the pair about a plot to kill Caesar. Cleopatra promises her support and tells her lover to flee while he can. He is determined to face Ptolemy and leaves Cleopatra in order to do battle.

In the seraglio, Achillas warns Ptolemy that Cleopatra is plotting against him. Sextus tries to kill Ptolemy but is defeated by Achillas. Once again, Achillas demands Cornelia as payment for his services, but Ptolemy refuses. Cornelia sends her son off, telling him to be brave and wait for another chance at Ptolemy.

Later, at the port of Alexandria, Achillas decides to help Cleopatra. Ptolemy’s armies have defeated Cleopatra’s forces and the queen has been taken prisoner. Wounded in an earlier battle, Achillas confesses that he killed Pompey and gives Sextus a seal which will give the young man command over his warriors. Caesar, presumed drowned in a sea battle, washes ashore, just in time to hear Achillas’s confession and to take the seal from Sextus. Caesar promises to rescue Cleopatra and Cornelia with these fresh troops.

At Ptolemy’s palace, Cleopatra prepares to die, but Caesar arrives in time to defeat Ptolemy’s guards. Sextus finds his mother defending herself from Ptolomy’s advances. Sextus kills Ptolomy.

Cleopatra offers Caesar the crown and scepter of Egypt, but he returns them to her and crowns her Queen of Egypt. Caesar and Cleopatra declare their love for each other to their subjects as well as peace for all of Egypt.

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