Adapting Shakespearean Drama for and in the Middle East: Process and Product
This dissertation chronicles the development of a series of plays, collectively referred to as The Arab Shakespeare Trilogy, from the perspective of their playwright Sulayman Al-Bassam. Together, The Al-Hamlet Summit (2002-2005), Richard III, An Arab Tragedy (2007-2009), and The Speaker’s Progress (2011-2012) register the eruptive social, political, and cultural contexts of the Arab world during the first decade of the twenty-first century while negotiating the adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays to a form thought-provoking and entertaining to audiences both within and outside the Middle East. The document outlines the inception of the project, which includes both personal and historical context, and provides more specific commentary on the production of each play individually. In addition to its focus on the specific impact of 9/11, and its global consequences, on the development of these dramatic works, it attends to topics including the technical and ideological challenges of linguistic and cultural translation, the adaptation of Shakespeare in Arabic theatre, the politics of art and drama in the Arab world, and the involvement of art in the shaping of the ethics of cross-cultural representation. Of particular interest are the linguistic conditions bearing upon the adaptation of English language texts into multi-lingual and cross- cultural works, the effects of the globalisation of politics and media, and the international touring life of the plays between the Arab region and wider world. The play texts of the Trilogy make up the second part of the document. The methodology of this dissertation deploys historical contextualisation, autobiographical memoir, literary analysis and creative improvisation. The play-texts are dramatic adaptations of specific Shakespeare texts to the Arab world.