Becoming Cleopatra/Becoming Girl: Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, Her First Roman and Reclaiming the Lives of Black Girls

  • Francesca T. Royster


For philosopher Gilles Deleuze, the figure of becoming—of possibility—is the figure of the girl. In the essay “What Is Becoming,” for example, he uses Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlands Alice as the symbol of the essence of becoming, which is “to move and to pull in both directions at once.”1 Alice is the perfect example of becoming, both for the ways that she manipulates her size— sometimes purposefully and other times not—and also for the ways that she represents the in-between state of a girl who is coming into her own sexual power. The push-pull that Lewis Carroll designated as size is also her desire, one that sometimes exceeds her body and age. But this use of girl as a metaphor for possibility fails to address the lives and histories of real women and real girls.2 I use the word “becoming” in both senses—in terms of metaphorical possibility and in terms of how history, economics and other cultural forces shape what; we actually can and cannot do. The creative possibilities as well as the constraints that accompany the Cleopatra icon for black women are the subjects of the second half of this book. In this transitional chapter, I contrast the image of Cleopatra as tied to a specifically white girlhood to the images of young black female sexuality.


Black Woman Black Girl Young Black Woman Sexual Power Dark Skin Tone 
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© Francesca T. Royster 2003

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