Daniel’s Cleopatra and Lady Anne Clifford: From a Jacobean Portrait to Modern Performance


  • Yasmin Arshad University College London
  • Helen Hackett University College London
  • Emma Whipday King's College London




Women and drama, female devisership, closet drama, neoclassical drama, Cleopatra, Samuel Daniel, Lady Anne Clifford, Mary Sidney Herbert


Recent interest in staging so-called ‘closet dramas’ by early modern women has bypassed Samuel Daniel’s Cleopatra, because of the author’s sex. Yet this play has strong female associations: it was commissioned by Mary Sidney Herbert, and is quoted in a Jacobean portrait of a woman (plausibly Lady Anne Clifford) in role as Cleopatra. We staged a Jacobean-style production of Cleopatra at Goodenough College, London, then a performance of selected scenes at Knole, Clifford’s home in Kent. This article presents the many insights gained about the dramatic power of the play and its significance in giving voices to women.

Author Biographies

Yasmin Arshad, University College London

Yasmin Arshad (y.arshad@ucl.ac.uk) is a doctoral student in the English department at University College London, working on ‘Imagining Cleopatra: Performing Race, Gender, and Power in Early Modern England’. Her research interests include early modern women; Renaissance portraiture; Tacitean political thought; and Shakespeare. She has a special interest in the Elizabethan poet Samuel Daniel: she produced The Tragedie of Cleopatra, and co-organized a conference on Daniel. She has published on Lady Anne Clifford and Daniel, and has forthcoming articles on the Persian Lady portrait, and on Marcus Gheeraerts and the Essex circle, co-authored with Chris Laoutaris (Shakespeare Institute).

Helen Hackett, University College London

Helen Hackett (h.hackett@ucl.ac.uk), professor in the English department at University College London,  has published widely on literature by and about women in the early modern period, including representations of Elizabeth I, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and prose fiction (especially Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania). Her most recent books are A Short History of English Renaissance Drama (2013) and Shakespeare and Elizabeth: The Meeting of Two Myths (2009). She co-founded the UCL Centre for Early Modern Exchanges (www.ucl.ac.uk/eme), and has edited a collection reflecting its work, Early Modern Exchanges: Dialogues Between Nations and Cultures, 1550-1750 (2015). She is working on a book entitled The Elizabethan Mind.

Emma Whipday, King's College London

Emma Whipday (emma.whipday@kcl.ac.uk) is a teaching fellow in Shakespeare and early modern English literature at King's College London, and a Globe Education lecturer at Shakespeare's Globe. She has a PhD from UCL on Shakespeare and domestic tragedy, and has published on news pamphlets reporting domestic murder, staging the neighbourhood in Arden of Faversham, and the RSC 'Roaring Girls' season. Emma has directed two rarely-staged plays from the early modern period: Samuel Daniel's The Tragedie of Cleopatra, and 'The Tragedy of Merry' from Robert Yarrington's Two Lamentable Tragedies.






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