A scorpion, its poisonous tail torn out, runs desperate circles around a
piece of burning coal. A small boy sits in front of a screen, watching
a film of a play translated from one language he does not understand
into another. Twenty-fi ve years later, these two events – an upper-
Egyptian game, a Russian film of an English play – coalesce into
a one-act play called Dance of the Scorpions, an Arabic-language
offshoot of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This, at any rate, is the simple
etiology offered by the offshoot play’s creator, Egyptian playwright/
director Mahmoud Aboudoma.1 Let me summarise Aboudoma’s
offshoot play and two versions of his first Shakespeare encounter
before pointing to the larger questions these stories help to frame.
This article will then make a start at addressing those questions.