This article explores how Shakespeare transforms his early picture of female virtue embodied by Bianca Minola – safely stowed in her chambers in The Taming of the Shrew – into the freedom we find in Othello's Bianca, who is an emblem of the larger world; her movements aligned with integrity, the ability to reason, and mastery of her body. I investigate how Bianca's 'nomadic' status guarantees her safety and speech, and also locate her agency and mobility alongside the movements of female characters like Moll Cutpurse, Isabella Whitney's dejected maidservant, and Spenser's Britomart – all guardians of a world to which they only peripherally belong.
Bianca at Large
Fāṭima Rushdī and the First Performance of Shrew in Arabic
David C. Moberly
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.
Reflective Remarks in Three Snapshots
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.