Poetics, Ritual and Politics in Two Plays by Ṣalah ‘Abd Al-Ṣabur: Toward an Aesthetics of National Regeneration


  • Mahasen Mahmoud Badra Kafr el Shiekh University, Egypt




Political theatre, Rituals, Comparative literature, National regeneration, Arab spring, Ṣalah ‘Abd al- Ṣabur.


In two of his poetic plays, The Princess Waits (1969), written under the ruling of the second president of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956-1970 in office) and After the King is Dead (1973), written after Nasser’s death, Ṣalaḥ ‘al- Ṣabūr presents the character of the Poet – who symbolizes the collective conscience of the nation – as the savior figure. In both plays, after a symbolically ritualistic duel, the Poet manages to kill the oppressor and rescue the heroine (Princess\Queen) who represents the oppressed nation. In After the King is Dead, he offers the Queen a long sought for dream, the "child" that symbolizes the hope for national rebirth. In his multi-layered philosophical, mythical and political strata of themes that combine the paradoxes of life and death, love and treason, fertility and barrenness, resistance and submission, Ṣabūr dramatizes his political reformist visions. Giving the two plays the allegorical framework of a folk tale, and ironically using ritual hymns and dances, the author synthesizes the classical traditional techniques with the modern experimental forms. In two superb theatrical pieces, he managed to produce an artistic carnivalesque show that brings together Greek and Oriental myths, ritual, the masque genre, Aristotle, Pirandello, Brecht, Maeterlinck, and Becket. ‘Abd Al- Ṣabūr’s two plays represent a step on the road for an art that may lead the Arabic nation to a state of regeneration that has been quested and sought for by many. They can be regarded as a tentative aesthetics of the sought for democratic utopia or the so-called "Arab spring" of today.

Author Biography

Mahasen Mahmoud Badra, Kafr el Shiekh University, Egypt

Assistant professor at the English Department, Faculty of Arts, Kafr el Siekh University, Egypt.


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How to Cite

Badra, M. M. (2018). Poetics, Ritual and Politics in Two Plays by Ṣalah ‘Abd Al-Ṣabur: Toward an Aesthetics of National Regeneration. Journal of History Culture and Art Research, 7(1), 157-165. https://doi.org/10.7596/taksad.v7i1.1428