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Othello in Oman: Aḥmad al-Izkī’s Fusion of Shakespeare and Classical Arab Epic

Katherine Hennessey

Keywords: Aḥmad al-Izkī’; Antara Ibn Shaddad; Arabic drama; Arab Shakespeare; contemporary theatre; Oman; Othello; Arabian Gulf theatre

Abstract

A recent work of theatre from Oman, Aḥmad al-Izkī’s al-Layla al-Ḥālika (The Dark Night, 2010), weaves together themes and characters from Shakespeare’s Othello and the pre-Islamic epic ‘Antara Ibn Shaddād, imagining a series of encounters which ultimately allow the protagonists to escape the tragic ending of Shakespeare’s play. This article argues that this juxtaposition performs a clever and well-placed intervention in ongoing socio-political debates on the Arabian Peninsula surrounding issues of identity, citizenship and political participation, and that the play argues for inclusivity and tolerance in the face of deep-seated racism and rising sectarianism. Furthermore, while al-Izkī’s script provides a happy ending, the 2010 production directed by ‘Abd al-Ghafūr al-Balūshī suggested a darker warning against the continuing threat of political, ethnic and sectarian divisions across the Gulf, a warning that subsequent events have borne out.

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