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Vanishing Intertexts in the Arab Hamlet Tradition

Margaret Litvin

Abstract

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.

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