NOTES TO CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA by GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
CLEOPATRA'S CURE FOR BALDNESS
For the sake of conciseness in a hurried situation I have made Cleopatra
recommend rum. This, I am afraid, is an anachronism: the only real one in the
play. To balance it, I give a couple of the remedies she actually believed in.
They are quoted by Galen from Cleopatra's book on Cosmetic.
"For bald patches, powder red sulphuret of arsenic and take it up with oak gum,
as much as it will bear. Put on a rag and apply, having soaped the place well
first. I have mixed the above with a foam of niter, and it worked well."
Several other receipts follow, ending with: "The following is the best of all,
acting for fallen hairs, when applied with oil or pomatum; acts also for falling
off of eyelashes or for people getting bald all over. It is wonderful. Of
domestic mice burnt, one part; of vine rag burnt, one part; of horse's teeth
burnt, one part; of bear's grease one; of deer's marrow one; of reed bark one.
To be pounded when dry, and mixed with plenty of honey ‘til it gets the
consistency of honey; then the bear's grease and marrow to be mixed (when
melted), the medicine to be put in a brass flask, and the bald part rubbed ‘til
Concerning these ingredients, my fellow-dramatist, Gilbert Murray, who, as a
Professor of Greek, has applied to classical antiquity the methods of high
scholarship (my own method is pure divination), writes to me as follows: " Some
of this I don't understand, and possibly Galen did not, as he quotes your
heroine's own language. Foam of niter is, I think, something like soapsuds. Reed
bark is an odd expression. It might mean the outside membrane of a reed: I do
not know what it ought to be called. In the burnt mice receipt I take that you
first mixed the solid powders with honey, and then added the grease. I expect
Cleopatra preferred it because in most of the others you have to lacerate the
skin, prick it, or rub it till it bleeds. I do not know what vine rag is.