History does not reflect well on Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy. Also known by "Auletes," or the flutist history regarded him as a drunk, self-indulgent, and weak ruler. He spent a considerable time pleasuring himself with extravagant parties and lavish entertainment. He reigned over Egypt twice due to a rebellion that resulted in his exile to Rome.
Ptolemy was noted to be very musical, something that is alluded to in the first scene during the opening “Fire Dance Sequence.” The Fire Dance Sequence introduces the baseline characters of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. This is where we also learn of Ptolemy’s favor with Cleopatra.
“The Conflict” Ptolemy’s sole focus is to leave his throne to his heirs. His aides begin to advise him to have the crown split into two; a custom of the time, thus creating a co-regency; “The Conflict/ Just Believe.” He rejects the advice of his aides and proclaims Cleopatra as the future ruler of Egypt.
In “Sands of Time” Cleopatra “magically” transforms into her adult incarnation through an archway to the grand balcony to an awaiting crowd. Accompanied by his two elder daughters Cleopatra IV and Berenice, Ptolemy proclaims Cleopatra as joint regent and deputy to the Pharaoh. More of a title than a position of power, this clearly sends a message to Ptolemy’s detractors of what his true intent is.
“Whatever Rome Wants,” we see the true weakness of Ptolemy as he gives his authority over to pro-Roman rule and policy in hope to protect his reign as Pharaoh. In an attempt to have Rome recognize his Kingship over Egypt. Ptolemy realizes that the only way he is going to convince Rome to continue to back him as Pharaoh is to bribe Pompey and Caesar. Ptolemy creates a plan to pay the two the bribe and then invite them to Alexandria. In hopes to gain Roman favor, Ptolemy decides to send jewels and treasure to Pompey along with an invitation to meet in Alexandria; in the song “Take It All.” “A Letter From Pompey!”, Pompey ends up keeping the riches and rejects the invitation to visit Ptolemy in Alexandria. It is only after a bribe to Rome that he becomes a formal patron friend of Caesar & Pompey and the people of Rome.
The Romans conquer Ptolemy’s brother in Cyprus. As an uprising breaks out in the streets of Alexandria due to Ptolemy’s lack of opinion regarding the matter and ever-rising taxes. He finally begins to feel the pressure of his aides and the anger of the Egyptians and considers the need to flee to Rome. Upon hearing the idea of the possibility of having to go to Rome with her father, Cleopatra begins to question her role designated to her by her father. She decides to go to the comfort and aid of her slightly older sister Berenice for well-needed advice in “Do I Really Want This?”
In an effort to keep his hand of influence over Egypt, Ptolemy prepares and charges his daughter Cleopatra IV Tryphaena before leaving in exile to Rome. In his absence he leaves his eldest daughter Tryphaena in charge as Pharaoh and his middle daughter Berenice as co-regent; “Assume The Role.”
“The Voyage” takes place on the waters of the River Tiber just outside of Rome. The “Alexandria” cast is on their way to Rome. This gives Ptolemy the opportunity to give his daughter a bit of royal advice on dealing with men and wielding power.
Ptolemy and Cleopatra arrive in Rome late at night, to an awaiting ally, Pompey, in “Good Friends.” Pompey invites them to stay with him, while Ptolemy schemes to regain his throne in “I’ll Take It To The Senate!” After a mild debate, Ptolemy relents and agrees to let Pompey do his bidding on his behalf.
Becoming too powerful and becoming too much a threat, Berenice poisons Tryphaena and assumes her reign as Pharaoh. “Drink A Little Wine.” Pompey has returned from the Senate without support for Ptolemy. Pressure is mounting for both men. Pompey is getting tired of his house guest, and Ptolemy is tired of being a house guest. "Nada" “He’s Gotta Go Back!” Pompey has his work cut out for him. He decides to take his case to the Roman Creditors who hold Ptolemy’s debt. He knows that this will not be too hard to have the creditors see his point of view. Ptolemy and Pompey's plan work. The creditors realize that without having Ptolemy on the throne, the likelihood of them seeing a return on their loans is far less likely. Upon having the merchants and creditors of Rome’s support, the Roman Senate is finally convinced to back the Authority of Ptolemy as Pharaoh of Egypt. Which is recapped in “He’s Gotta Go Back, Reprise” When word of what Rome is planning reaches Egypt, an envoy of men is dispatched from Egypt to make their case to the Romans against Ptolemy XII's restoration. When this news reaches Ptolemy, he cleverly has their leader, Dion, poisoned. While Dion lays dying in the company of his men, Ptolemy’s thugs ambush the other protesters killing most of them before reaching Rome to plead their desires.
Ptolemy XII finally recovers his throne by paying Aulus Gabinius to invade Egypt. After defeating the frontier forces of the Egyptian kingdom, he proceeds to attack the palace guards but the guards' surrender before a battle ensues. When Gabinius reports back to Ptolemy of his victory and the subsequent death of his daughter Tryphaena, Ptolemy falls to his knees and proclaims “Victory Is Mine!” Shifting his thoughts away from the decision to take revenge on his daughter, Berenice, he decides to focus on his win. He decides to build a monument of him smiting his enemies in dedication to himself in the song “Build Me A Monument.”
With the approval of his aides Upon entering his palace, Ptolemy has his daughter Berenice beheaded and all her supporters executed for the murder of Tryphaena in "Betrayal."
Ensuring their investment pays out, Rome sends two thousand Roman soldiers and mercenaries and stations them in Alexandria to ensure Ptolemy’s authority. Now Rome can apply its power over the restored monarch in “Secure the Investment.”
With Rome demand for Ptolemy to repay his debts, and the people of Egypt resenting their reinstated King, Ptolemy decides to make Cleopatra his Co-Regent to appease his constituency. The moment Ptolemy regains his throne, Roman creditors demand the return on their investments, however, the Alexandrian treasury does not have the resources.
Ptolemy attempts shifts popular resentment of his needed tax increases from himself to the Romans, his main creditor to little avail. In a fit of rage and desperation, Ptolemy begins debasing the coinage as an attempt to repay his debt to Rome. The value of Egyptian coinage drops to half of its value. Egypt is in turmoil, the leader is corrupt, mentally deranged, and dying; in “What Shall Become of Us”
In the Final Scene Before his death, Ptolemy chooses his daughter Cleopatra as his coregent. He passes quietly, surrounded by Cleopatra and his personal aides. As he passes, the light over his lifeless body goes dim, and the light over Cleo brightens as she finally ascends to her new role as she takes the responsibility of the throne as Pharaoh.
Strabo XVII, 1, 11:
Now all at kings after the third Ptolemy, being corrupted by luxurious living, have administered the affairs of government badly, but worst of all the fourth, seventh, and the last, Auletes, who, apart from his general licentiousness, practiced the accompaniment of choruses with the flute, and upon this he prided himself so much that he would not hesitate to celebrate contests in the royal palace, and at these contests would come forward to vie with the opposing contestants.
QUEEN OF THE NILE: AULETES © 2011 Tim O’Neil