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The Taming of the Tigress: Fāṭima Rushdī and the First Performance of Shrew in Arabic

David C. Moberly

Keywords: adaptation; Arab Shakespeares; colloquial Arabic; Egyptian Shakespeare; Egyptian theatre; Fatima Rushdi; Global Shakespeares; The Taming of the Shrew

Abstract

Few scholars have addressed Arabic adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew, though it remains among the most popular Shakespearean comedies in the Arab world. The first Arabic performance of Shrew in Egypt in 1930 marked a significant landmark in the history of Arab Shakespeares, as the translator rendered the play in colloquial Egyptian Arabic, rather than in the formal, classical Arabic accessible to the educated elite. As such, the play offered the uneducated Egyptian public – and women in particular – unprecedented access to this work of Shakespeare. Instrumental to the adaptation’s success was Fāṭima Rushdī, owner and lead actress of the company that performed this first Arabic Shrew. In this and other roles as one of Egypt’s first renowned Shakespearean actresses, Rushdī not only effectively recast Shakespeare in an Egyptian mould, but also cast Egyptians in a Shakespearean mould, with effects that still echo today.

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