For the past five decades, Arab intellectuals have seen themselves in Shakespeare's "Hamlet": their times "out of joint", their political hopes frustrated by a corrupt older generation. "Hamlet's Arab Journey" traces the uses of "Hamlet" in Arabic theatre and political rhetoric, and asks how Shakespeare's play developed into a musical with a happy ending in 1901 and grew to become the most obsessively quoted literary work in Arab politics today. Explaining the Arab "Hamlet" tradition, Margaret Litvin also illuminates the "to be or not to be" politics that have turned Shakespeare's tragedy into the essential Arab political text, cited by Arab liberals, nationalists, and Islamists alike. On the Arab stage, Hamlet has been an operetta hero, a firebrand revolutionary, and a muzzled dissident. Analyzing productions from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait, Litvin follows the distinct phases of Hamlet's naturalization as an Arab. Her fine-grained theatre history uses personal interviews as well as scripts and videos, reviews, and detailed comparisons with French and Russian Hamlets. The result shows Arab theatre in a new light.
Litvin identifies the French source of the earliest Arabic "Hamlet", shows the outsize influence of Soviet and East European Shakespeare, and explores the deep cultural link between Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and the ghost of Hamlet's father. Documenting how global sources and models helped nurture a distinct Arab "Hamlet" tradition, "Hamlet's Arab Journey" represents a new approach to the study of international Shakespeare appropriation.
Margaret Litvin is assistant professor of Arabic and comparative literature at Boston University.
List of Illustrations ix Preface and Acknowledgments xi Note on Transliteration and Translation xvii Introduction 1 "When Shakespeare Travels Abroad" 3 The Global Kaleidoscope 6 Hamlet and Political Agency 8 Chapter 1: Hamlet in the Daily Discourse of Arab Identity 13 "Time Out of Joint": Coming to Terms with History 16 "Shall We Be or Not Be?": Personifying the Group 23 "Words, Words, Words": Forging an Identity 29 "The Play's the Thing" 33 Chapter 2: Nasser's Dramatic Imagination, 1952-64 35 Revolutionary Drama 37 Theatre Joins the Battle 44 Shakespeare on the Sidelines 50 Chapter 3: The Global Kaleidoscope: How Egyptians Got Their Hamlet, 1901-64 53 Beyond Caliban 54 "Bend Again toward France" 59 "Do It, England!" 70 Independence and Soviet Shakespeare 75 Bidayr's "Cruel Text" 85 Chapter 4: Hamletizing the Arab Muslim Hero, 1964-67 91 In Search of Social Justice 93 Psychological Interiority as a Ground for Political Agency 95 Sulayman: "Justice or Oppression? That Is the Puzzle" 95 Al-Hallaj: "Who Will Give Me a Seeing Sword?" 103 De-Hamletized Revivals 111 Chapter 5: Time Out of Joint, 1967-76 114 "Something Is Rotten": Theatre and the 1967 Defeat 116 M artyrs for Justice: "Abstract and Brief Chronicles" of the 1970s 124 Sadat's Open Door: "To Cook or Not to Cook?" 134 A Dilemma 140 Chapter 6: Six Plays in Search of a Protagonist, 1976-2002 142 Silencing Hamlet 144 "A Play Can't Stab" 147 "His Sword Kept Sticking Up" 163 A Prodigal Cousin 173 Post-Political Laughs 179 Epilogue: Hamlets without Hamlet 183 Notes 189 Bibliography 237 Index 257