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.