Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stacy Schiff

Stacy Schiff is the author of Cleopatra: A Life.

From her Q & A with Alexandra Cheney at the Wall Street Journal:

The Wall Street Journal: Out of all the people you could write about, why Cleopatra?

Stacy Schiff: Partly because she seemed to me to stand at that intersection between women and power that I was increasing fascinated by. Partly because you have a moment in history where the entire world changes. I mean, the Roman Republic and the Hellenistic Age ends with her death and then 30 years later Christ is born. And you have this all-star cast. You have Mark Antony, Julius Caesar, Herod the Great and Cleopatra — it doesn’t get any better than that in terms of subjects.

How did you sort through all the historical material?

I read and read and reread Plutarch and all the other classical sources in every translation. And after a while you get to see the littlest traces of things that you realize are going to allow you to set a scene. In Plutarch, her voice begins to come out, there are actual 2,000-year-old quotes from Cleopatra and they are sly and saucy. When you begin to hear something like that lifting off the page, you begin to say, “Okay, I can set a scene with this.” And I also realized that the sources were as interesting as the subject. By working the sources into the story makes it as interesting, it enriches the history.

Did you have any adventures in researching the book?

In fact,...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue