Adapting Shakespearean Tragedy into Arab Theatre: A Critical Comparative Edition of Sulayman Al Bassam’s An Arab Tragedy
This dissertation presents an annotated critical edition of Sulayman Al-Bassam’s 2006 play Richard III: An Arab Tragedy, a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III set in the contemporary Arab world. The play has previously been published in a simplified and lightly annotated English-language version. This dissertation compares this final published text with the Arabic version, with the Shakespeare source-text, and with an earlier draft version in English, and by comparative textual analysis and annotation sheds light upon the process of adaptation and translation. The annotated play is preceded by an extended critical introduction which provides a theoretical discussion of adaptation, translation, and appropriation and contextualizes the play in the history of Shakespearean adaptation more broadly, and in the Arab world more specifically. The thesis is that Al-Bassam’s appropriation is not so much a radical adaptation of a fixed and stable text, but a continuation of the play’s already complex and plural textual and stage history. The dissertation argues that Al-Bassam’s reworking of the play must be understood in multiple contexts, as part of a continuum of meaning connected with Shakespeare and his multiple sources; with Arab literary and cultural traditions; and with the fraught political situation of the Middle East in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The introduction provides a detailed discussion of the complex textual history of Shakespeare’s play, with a focus on the deformity of the title character as a marker of otherness which renders him particularly attractive for an Arab audience. It also analyses in detail the text of Al-Bassam’s play in both English and Arabic versions, exploring the demands made on the text by the movement between languages and cultures. This analysis also explores the importance of features such as music, costume and staging in bridging between cultures and time-periods for different audiences, with particular reference to the original production of the play which opened in Stratford-upon-Avon and subsequently toured internationally. Richard III: An Arab Tragedy has itself been adapted into a documentary film called Richard III: An Arab VIP, which incorporates a recording of the original performance, and the introduction also discusses the complexities of the relationship between text, play and film. The submission also contains two appendices: the full text of the Arabic version of the play (A); and the full text of the draft translation of the play back into English (D), which later formed the basis for the published version (P). Each of these texts has been edited and arranged in order to make comparative analysis possible for the researcher, now and in the future, with clear line numbering being added to make precise reference to Acts and Scenes possible.
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