Cleopatra: getting the full figure

Let's start a rumor: Actress Renee Zellweger will play Cleopatra in a new Hollywood movie about the ancient Egyptian beauty.

In "Bridget Jones's Diary," opening this weekend, the usually svelte Zellweger shows her willingness to put on weight to play the more full-figured "Bridget."

That'd fit nicely into the latest thinking about Cleopatra: Let's just say she wouldn't have cut it as a runway model today.

Though "there is no evidence of Cleopatra having been fat, she certainly would have been curvaceous," Susan Walker, the curator of a new British Museum exhibition ("Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth") told the Agence France Presse service. The remark came after a British newspaper stirred a controversy last month by declaring that the Egyptian ruler had really been fat and ugly.

Standards of beauty come and go, of course. Even Hollywood's three major attempts to film Cleo's story, Theda Bara (1917), Claudette Colbert (1934), and Elizabeth Taylor (1963) gave the Egyptian queen much different looks, reflecting their own eras.

Though many depictions of Cleopatra exist, some of which are part of the new exhibition, no one knows if any of them are accurate.

But Ms. Walker says merely dwelling on Cleopatra's physical beauty misses the point.

"No one could resist her charm," she told Reuters at a preview this week of the new exhibition. "She would light up the room, and she had the most beautiful speaking voice. She was a fascinating figure; she is a very captivating subject." Cleopatra also was an astute politician who spoke nine languages, and was the mother of four children.

She was a full figure in many ways, it would seem.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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