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‘Abd al-Raḥīm Kamāl’s Dahsha

An Upper Egyptian Lear

Noha Mohamad Mohamad Ibraheem


This article investigates the pivotal cultural and socio-political issues affecting Egyptian society that ‘Abd al-Raḥīm Kamāl, a young Egyptian scriptwriter, represents in his television series Dahsha (Perplexity, 2014). This Ṣaʿīdī (Upper Egyptian) adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear raises issues including widespread and grinding poverty, the marginalization of women, the stigma attached to illegitimate children, and the continuing dependence upon patriarchal leadership, with Egypt’s 2011 revolution hovering in the background. Kamāl’s divergences from Shakespeare’s play in terms of characterization and plot create a different, culturally oriented interpretation of Lear. The article also examines the effects of transposing Lear from the stage into a different medium – the television screen. Finally, it distinguishes between the two literary concepts of ‘adaptation’ and ‘proximization’ by analysing how Egyptian audiences and critics responded to the series.