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.
Hazem Azmy is Assistant Professor of Drama and Theatre Criticism at Ain Shams University, Cairo, and Deputy Editor-in-Chief of al-Masraḥ (Theatre) quarterly. He is co-convener of the Arabic Theatre Working Group of the International Federation for Theatre Research. His book Staging Egypt on the Global Stage: Egyptian Performance Realities from 9/11 to the Arab Spring is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan. He holds a PhD in Theatre Studies from the University of Warwick, UK.