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Does a Pharaoh harden his heart against his son? If you let the Hebrews go, who will build his cities? You told Moses to make bricks without straw. Now he tells you to make cities without bricks. Who is the slave and who is the Pharaoh? Do you hear laughter, Rameses? Yes, the laughter of kings... in Babylon, in Canaan, in Troy... as Egypt surrenders to the God of slaves.
~ Nefretiri manipulating Rameses to get revenge on Moses.
His God? The priests say that Pharaoh is a god, but you are not a god. You are even less than a man. Listen to me, Rameses. You thought I was evil when I went to Moses, and you were right. Shall I tell you what happened, Rameses? He spurned me like a strumpet in the street. I, Nefretiri, Queen of Egypt. All that you wanted from me he would not even take. Do you hear laughter, Pharaoh? Not the laughter of kings, but the laughter of slaves on the desert!
~ Nefretiri manipulating Rameses to get revenge on Moses.
Kill him with your own hands. Bring it back to me, stained with his blood!
~ Nefretiri demanding Rameses kill Moses.

Nefretiri is the deuteragonist-turned-secondary antagonist of the 1956 Biblical epic film The Ten Commandments. She was the throne princess of Egypt during the reign of Sethi who lusted over the then-prince Moses, seeking to be with him and ensure that he become Pharaoh by any means necessary, including resorting to murder to try and keep the secret of Moses' Hebrew heritage a secret. After Moses is found out and banished, she marries Rameses II, and seeks revenge on Moses when she finds out he married another woman and returned to free the Hebrew people from Egypt.

She was portrayed by the late Anne Baxter.

Personality

Nefretiri is very flamboyant and exuberant. She is very open in her feelings towards others, whether they be love and admiration or hate and disrespect. She is extremely confident in not only herself, but also those she deems to be allies, often to the point of arrogance and underestimating the abilities of her enemies. When her enemies make threats or warnings towards her, she often disregards them and sees herself or her allies as being higher than any who would oppose her. Her egotism leads her to doubt foes and raise herself to the highest standard she can, even referring to herself as Egypt itself when it comes to authority and influence.

Despite her arrogance and elitist nature, those she deems as friends and allies she treats with respect and dignity. She had good relations with Sethi, cracking jokes and playfully insulting him despite his authority over her, to which he returned the favor. On his deathbed, Nefretiri mourns Sethi and tries to make his passing as comfortable and warm as she can. She falls in love with Moses, and treats him as one of the few people she puts over herself and her regal lifestyle, claiming she would give anything for his love in return. She often playfully flirted with Moses and tried to set up romantic situations to lure him in. Even when revealing troubling news to him, she often manipulated the situation to make herself his confidant.

Despite her legitimate love for Moses, she was often very possessive of him, and was made easily envious when other women were in the picture, whether they be love rivals or not. When the princess of Ethiopia honors Moses with tokens and praises, Nefretiri is immediately combative towards the potential rival, noting her beauty and admiration for Moses as a challenge to her. After Moses' banishment and marriage to Sephora, Nefretiri is appalled by the thought of Moses marrying a woman less sophisticated and wealthy than herself, even trying to win the married Moses back over by comparing herself to his wife. However, Nefretiri does care about Moses enough to try and save his wife and son when Rameses plots their deaths, though her care for him fades after he opposes her one too many times.

Nefretiri helps harden Rameses' heart towards Moses and God, believing that it will manipulate Moses' path back to her. However, due to Rameses' selfish nature, God is forced to bring death to all the first born of Egypt, including Rameses and Nefretiri's own son. Nefretiri, still believing her to be greater than any God, demands that Moses make God spare her son, despite Moses telling her he cannot. Nefretiri's son dies, and she views it, compounded with Moses' marrying of another woman and return to free the slaves, a complete betrayal. Her lust and love for Moses dissipates, turning her heart cold and hard towards her former lover. She decides that if she cannot have Moses, no one can, and mocks and manipulates Rameses into trying to wipe out the Hebrews, kill Moses, and return to her with his sword stained with Moses' blood. When this ultimately fails, she views her husband as a failure and Moses and God as her ultimate enemies that she hates for the rest of her life.

History

Prior to Nefretiri's birth, Rameses I heard a prophecy that said a Deliverer had been born among the Hebrew slaves. To counter this prophecy at the wishes of his priests, Rameses declared that every male Hebrew child under the age of two be slaughtered. The order was carried out, but the Hebrew woman Yoshabel saved her son by putting him in a basket and sending him down the Nile river. The basket was found by Pharaoh's daughter Bithia. She took in the child and named him Moses.

Nefretiri was born and raised as the throne princess of Egypt. After Rameses I passing, Sethi became the new Pharaoh and had a son named Rameses II. Despite Moses being his nephew, Sethi treated him as his own son, even giving him the opportunity to succeed him on the throne. Whoever Sethi deemed worthy to be his heir, Moses or Rameses, would take Nefretiri as a wife and become the next ruler of Egypt.

Once in adulthood, Nefretiri fell in love with Moses, who returned the admiration. Despite their romance, Rameses insisted that he would be the next Pharaoh and Nefretiri would be his wife. During their adulthood, Moses was tasked by Sethi to fend off Ethiopia from Eqypt's border, and returned victorious having not done battle, but rather using diplomacy to win Ethiopia over as an ally. Nefretiri is present when Moses returns, captivated by the people shouting his name and throwing flowers to her returning hero.

Nefretiri oversees Moses present the spoils of Ethiopia's tribute to them, and is cautious of the princess when she sings Moses' praises and bestows him with trinkets of honor. Moses and Nefretiri meet up after the presentation, proclaiming their love for one another. Rameses suggests Moses be sent to build Sethi's jubilee city. While Nefretiri objects because she believes Rameses is trying to distance Moses from him, Sethi agrees and sends Moses. There, Moses commands the slaves for months, but treats them with a respect and honor not shown by the other Egyptians, causing the Hebrews to favor him. Moses even goes so far as to give the slaves grain from temple graininess and one day in seven to rest.

One day, Nefretiri and Sethi are playing a game of Hounds and Jackals when a priest comes in with another complaint about Moses. Sethi dismisses him, and Rameses arrives. Rameses tells Sethi of Moses' actions, and accuses him of plotting an insurrection against his Pharaoh. Sethi is outraged, and goes to prepare for a journey to his city to question Moses personally. After he has left, Rameses gloats to Nefretiri about her being his wife when he is Pharaoh. Nefretiri mocks him, even kissing him to give him a taste of what Moses will have and he will not. She tells Rameses that she could never love him, but Rameses tells her that it will not matter if she loves him or not, she will be his wife nonetheless.

Though Sethi finds Moses innocent of any crime, Nefretiri is approached by the handmaiden Memnant, who witnesses Bithia draw Moses from the Nile. She presents the Hebrew cloth that Moses was swaddled in, and reveals to Nefretiri Moses' true heritage, warning her not to mix the blood of a slave with her own. Nefretiri at first believes the whole thing to be a lie created by Rameses, but the cloth and Memnant's persistence proves it true. Nefretiri tells Memnant that she does not care who Moses is, and tells her that she will not live to tell anyone else the truth. She backs Memnant to a balcony and pushes her off, killing her.

Not seconds after her murder, Moses comes to flirt with Nefretiri. However, he notices the cloth and questions Nefretiri about it. A servant comes in with news that Memnant has died, and Nefretiri is forced to confess her crime to Moses. When Moses inquires about her motive, she reveals what Memnant told her. Moses leaves and questions Bithia, then goes to see Yoshabel. In order to help himself discover who he is, Moses leaves the palace to work among the slaves as one of them.

One day, Nefretiri arrives and finds Moses in the mud pits. She claims she wants him as an oarsman for her boat, so the Egyptian guards send him to her. She muses about how low Moses has sunk, asking why he feels it necessary to join the Hebrews and wallow in their filth. Moses tells her that he now understands the cruelty the slaves endure, and Nefretiri suggests he return, take his place as Pharaoh, and use his power to set the Hebrews free.

However, Moses later happens upon the stonecutter Joshua about to be executed by the Master Builder Baka for trying to rescue his lover. Moses intervenes and saves Joshua, taking Baka's life and burying him in sand. The deed is seen by overseer Dathan, who revels to Rameses that Moses is the prophecised Deliverer.

Moses is arrested and brought before Sethi, much to Nefretiri's horror. Moses tells Sethi the truth, and says that he is not the Deliverer, but would free the slaves if he could. Sethi sorrowfully declares Rameses his heir and Nefretiri's future husband, but cannot bring himself to punish Moses and tells Rames to do what he will.

Rameses decides to banish Moses to the desert, not executing him for the sole reason of not granting him martyrtom in Nefretiri's mind. He allows Moses and Nefretiri to see each other one last time, where they say their goodbyes. The next day, Rameses sends Moses out with a day's ration of bread and water. Moses wanders the desert for days until happening upon the land of Midian, where he meets his future wife Sephora and lives with her family as a shepherd for many years.

Back in Egypt, Sethi lies on his deathbed, with Rameses and his now-wife Nefretiri at his side. Nefretiri mourns Sethi, who admits with his final breaths that he misses Moses. Sethi dies, and Rameses becomes Pharoah of Egypt with Nefretiri as his Queen. Over the next few years, Nefretiri bears Rameses' son, the next prince of Egypt.

Many years later, Moses is commanded by God himself to return to Egypt and confront Rameses and command he let the Hebrew people go. Moses obeys and goes before Pharaoh, much to Nefretiri's shock and amazement. Moses demonstrates the power of God by having his brother Aaron transform his staff into a cobra, causing Nefretiri and Rameses' son to recoil in fear. However, when Pharaoh's priests use their trickery to do the same, Rameses hardens his heart and refuses to let the slaves free, despite Moses' snake devouring the others.

In spite, Rameses commands that the Hebrews be forced to make bricks without straw. Before the Hebrews stone Moses for failing them, Nefretiri has her guards rescue him and bring him to her. She attempts to sway Moses back to her, but Moses reveals that he has married another woman. Nefretiri feels betrayed,but still tries to convince Moses to leave his wife and return to her. However, Moses now sees the darkness in Nefretiri's heart and refuses her, simply telling her that God may use her to help free the slaves.

With Rameses refusing to free the Hebrews, Moses and God send nine plagues upon the land of Egypt. After the suffering, Rameses is prepared to relent and let Moses and his people go. However, Nefretiri, angry at Moses, manipulates Rameses. She tells him that if he lets the Hebrews go, there will be no one to build his son's cities, and if he relents to the wishes of slaves, he will be the mockery of the kings of the civilized world. Rameses hardens his heart again, and decrees that every first-born Hebrew must die. Nefretiri, however, does not want death to come upon Moses' son, so she rides to meet Moses's wife. She warns them of the coming danger and instructs them to flee, and they do so. However, Nefretiri secretly also wanted to remove them so she may be alone and intimate with Moses again.

Moses returns to find that his wife and son have gone, and Nefretiri trying to seduce him again. When Moses questions Nefretiri as to his wife and son's whereabouts, she explains Pharaoh's decree. Moses is shocked and afraid, not for the lives of the Hebrews, but because God decreed that the next plague would come from Rameses' own mouth, and that all of the firstborn of Egypt were doomed. Nefretiri does not believe Moses, and believes that her authority is greater than any god's, and that her son will not die. Moses tries to warn her and tells her to spend time with her son, but she refuses to accept the truth.

Later, one night, an Angel of Death comes down from Heaven and takes the life of all of the first-born of Egypt. Rameses' son falls ill, and Nefretiri stays by his side, assuring herself and others that he will be spared. However, he is not, and dies in Nefretiri's arms. Rameses and Nefretiri are heartbroken, and Rameses summons Moses and commands him and his people to go.

The next day, all of the Hebrews pack their belongings and depart, freed from slavery. However, Rameses is still grieving the loss of his child, and begs the god Anubis to bring his son back to life and prove his might over the Hebrew God's. Nefretiri mocks him, and begins manipulating him again out of a desire for absolute revenge against Moses. She calls him less than a man, and says that he is not the laughing stock of other kings, but the laughing stock of slaves and peasants. Enraged, Rameses commands his army to ready, and armors himself for battle. Nefretiri presents his sword, and demands that Rameses return it to her stained with the blood of Moses. Rameses agrees, stating that he will in order to mingle it with her own by killing her with it when he returns. Nefretiri watches as Rameses and his army ride their chariots to slaughter the Hebrews.

However, the Hebrews escape, with Moses and God splitting the Red Sea so they may pass through. When the Egyptians try to follow, the sea collapses back down, drowning all of the soldiers and leaving Rameses the sole survivor.

Rameses returns to his palace and draws his sword to strike Nefretiri down. Nefretiri stops him, demanding that before he strike, he show her Moses' blood. Rameses, deciding it is crueler to leave Nefretiri alive, throws the sword to the ground and lets her see it clean. Nefretiri is enraged that Moses is still alive, and that she is stuck knowing that for the rest of her life. Rameses admits that the Hebrew God is the one true God, much to Nefretiri's disgust.

Nefretiri presumably lives out the rest of her days as Queen of Egypt. Towards the end of the film it flashes forward to Moses as an elderly man, meaning Nefretiri is likely also elderly or has died of natural causes. In her final scene, she and Rameses are shown juxaposed against the red fire of Mt. Horeb, presumably indicating that the two of them are fated to suffer damnation in Hell after their deaths.

Gallery

Navigation

           Book of Exodus Villains

Films
The Ten Commandments (1956): Rameses II | Nefretiri | Rameses I † | Sethi † | Dathan † | Baka
The Prince of Egypt (film): Rameses II | Hotep and Huy | Seti I † | Baka
The Ten Commandments (2007): Dathan † | Ramses II | Seti I
Exodus: Gods and Kings: Rameses II

Musicals
The Prince of Egypt (musical): Hotep † | Rameses II | Nefertari | Seti I † | Baka

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