Egyptian Attitudes toward Warfare in Recent Theatre and Dramatic Literature
Scott, William Allen
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Egypt is the center of theatre activity in the Arab world. During its brief but productive history, Egyptian theatre has frequently broached sensitive political topics. Ali Salem's The Oedipus Comedy or You Who Killed the Beast deals with government accountability and public responsibility. In this version of the Oedipus story, a comedy set in ancient Egyptian Thebes, the sphynx keeps returning, despite Oedipus' answers. The Egyptians learn that confronting a threat to peace is the responsibility of all the people. The play appeared in the wake of the 1967 war with Israel, and despite the play's comic style, The Oedipus Comedy or You Who Killed' the Beast is a serious examination of the factors which led to the Arab defeat. Mahmoud Diab's Messenger from Tumayra Village is a tale of suffering behind the lines as family members contend for ownership of the land that feeds them. Set in a small Delta village during the 1973 war, the play deals directly with contemporary hostilities and their effects upon the peasant class. Not only does Messenger from Tumayra Village give a realistic, personalized representation of the problems which war with Israel has created, but it shows the pride with which the Egyptians viewed their performance in the 1973 war. But the war with Israel is not the only political issue treated in these plays. They also deal with the dangers of repressive leadership, with censorship, propaganda, and bureaucratic incompetence, with government accountability and public responsibility. Above all, the plays deal with the victims of all these problems — the Egyptian people. The purpose of this work is threefold: to bring to English speaking audiences my translations of two stylistically diverse plays of artistic merit; to provide a framework for understanding drama; and to focus attention on Egyptian perceptions of one of the most important dilemmas in the Middle East -- the problem of Palestine. My greatest hope is that theatre producers and directors research to bring these plays to the stage or, at least, to give greater authenticity to productions of other plays which deal with Arabs or Egyptians.
- Drama