For decades, Arab and Western scholars have wondered about a possible
genealogical relationship between the European sonnet and earlier Arabic
poetic forms such as the muwashshah form popular in Muslim Spain.
Published in 2011, Kamal Abu-Deeb’s Arabic translation of Shakespeare’s
Sonnets not only offered a well-received complete translation of the
sonnets; it also proposed a bold theory of how exactly this genealogical
link might have worked. In the section of his introduction excerpted here,
which he has rewritten in English (with a special English epilogue) for
this issue at our request, Abu-Deeb lays out an argument that the polyglot
Sicilian court of Frederick II (1194–1250) was the forum in which poet
Giacomo da Lentini, father of the Italian sonnet, might have heard,
adopted and adapted Arabic poetry of muwashshah type. Abu-Deeb also
discusses what he calls his ‘fantasy’ of an Arab origin for Shakespeare’s
name. We present this valuable document to you as Abu-Deeb wrote it,
with minimal editorial alterations.