Queen Ayesha is a title character of the musical referred to as “She” or “She-who-must-be-obeyed”. Ayesha is a 2,000-year-old Queen, who mastered the lore of the ancients and became a great sorceress. Learning of the Pillar of Life in the African interior, she journeyed to the ruined kingdom of Kôr, feigning friendship with a hermit who was the keeper of the Flame that granted everlasting life... She bathed in the Fire of Life and gained immortality... She has lived in the realm of Kôr for more than two millennia, awaiting the reincarnated return of her lover, Kallikrates. She believes to have found him in the person of Leo Vincey, who, together with his friend and mentor, Horace Holly, arrives into Ayesha's kingdom two thousand years after she had slain her beloved Kallikrates in a fit of jealous rage.
Clive Nolan about Ayesha: “It was rare in the Victorian era for authors to centre their novels on strong female characters. Ayesha is certainly one of these. She exudes power and purpose from her very first appearance. We as the audience are left in no doubt as to whom this story is about. In many ways, she is not a good person, but there is little doubt she feels the guilt of her sins, and her love is deep to the point of obsession. A dangerous woman to cross!”
In H.R. Haggards words: Holly about Ayesha: “I have heard of the beauty of celestial beings, now I saw it; only this beauty, with all its awful loveliness and purity, was evil - at least, at the time, it struck me as evil. How am I to describe it? I cannot-simply I cannot! The man does not live whose pen could convey a sense of what I saw. I might talk of the great changing eyes of deepest, softest black, of the tinted face, of the broad and noble brow, on which the hair grew low, and delicate, straight features. But, beautiful, surpassingly beautiful as they all were, her loveliness did not lie in them. It lay rather, if it can be said to have had any fixed abiding place, in a visible majesty, in an imperial grace, in a godlike stamp of softened power, which shone upon that radiant countenance like a living halo.
Never before had I guessed what beauty made sublime could be-and yet, the sublimity was a dark one-the glory was not all of heaven-though none the less was it glorious. Though the face before me was that of a young woman of certainly not more than thirty years, in perfect health, and the first flush of ripened beauty, yet it had stamped upon it a look of unutterable experience, and of deep acquaintance with grief and passion. Not even the lovely smile that crept about the dimples of her mouth could hide this shadow of sin and sorrow. It shone even in the light of the glorious eyes, it was present in the air of majesty, and it seemed to say: "Behold me, lovely as no woman was or is, undying and half-divine; memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand-evil have I done, and from age to age evil I shall do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes."
"I have looked on beauty, and I am blinded," I said hoarsely, lifting my hand to cover up my eyes.” (Extract from H.R. Haggard's 'She')