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Egypt between Two Shakespeare Quadricentennials 1964 through 2016: Reflective Remarks in Three Snapshots

Hazem Azmy

Keywords: al-Masraḥ magazine; Egyptian revolution of 2011; Egyptian theatre; King Lear; Rashad Rushdi; Shakespeare in Egypt; Taming of the Shrew; Tawfiq al-Hakim

Abstract

This article reflects critically on Shakespeare’s presence in the Egyptian cultural and national imaginaries between the country’s celebration of two Shakespeare quadricentennials. The 400th anniversary of his birth in 1964 coincided with the euphoric reimagining of Egypt as a decolonizing nationalist utopia, and also with the launch of the highly emblematic al- Masraḥ magazine; that of the Bard’s death in 2016 has occurred as the exhausted ‘post-revolutionary’ nation navigates a welter of blind spots and uncertainties on all levels. Culled from the wider public sphere, mainstream stage practice and my classroom experiences as an instructor of drama and theatre in contemporary Egypt, the article’s three snapshots exhibit compelling evidence of cultural hegemony, entrenched gerontocracy and both the subtle and not so subtle continuing subjugation of feminized voices.

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