Ahmed Shawqi

Ahmed Shawqi (1868 – Oct. 14th, 1932) (أحمد شوقي) was an Arabic Language poet and dramatist who pioneered the modern Egyptian literary movement, most notably introducing the genre of poetic epics to the Arabic literary tradition. Shawqi also produced distinctive poetry that is widely considered to be the most prominent of the 20th century in Egypt.

Life

Monument to Shawqi in Villa Borghese, RomeRaised in a privileged setting, his family was prominent and well-connected with the court of the Khedive of Egypt. Upon graduating from high school, he attended law school, obtaining a degree in translation. Shawqi was then offered a job in the court of the Khedive Abbas II, which he immediately accepted.

After a year working in the court of the Khedive, Shawqi was sent to continue his studies in Law at the Universities of Montpellier and Paris for three years. While in France, he was heavily influenced by the works of French playwrights, most notably Molière and Racine.

He returned to Egypt in 1894, and remained a prominent member of Arab literary culture until the British forced him into exile in southern Spain, Andalusia, in 1914. Shawqi remained there until 1920, when he returned to Egypt. In 1927 he was crowned by his peers Amir al- Sho’araa’ أمير الشعراء(literally: the Prince of Poets) in recognition of his considerable contributions to the literary field.

He used to live in ‘Karmet Ibn Hani’ or Ibn Hani’s Vineyardin كرمة ابن هانىء at Al-Matariyyah area near the palace of the Khedive Abbas II at Saray El-Qobba until he was exiled. After returning to Egypt he built a new house at Giza which he named the new Karmet Ibn Hani.[1] The house later on became Ahmed Shawki Museum.

Works

Shawqi’s work can be categorized into three main periods during his career:

  • The first coincides with the period during which he occupied a position at the court of the Khedive, consisting of eulogies to the Khedive: praising him or supporting his policy.
  • The second comprised the period of his exile in Spain. During this period, his feeling of nostalgia and sense of alienation directed his poetic talent to patriotic poems on Egypt as well as the Arab world.
  • The third stage occurred after his return from exile: during that period he became preoccupied with the glorious history of Ancient Egypt and Islam. This was the period during which he wrote his religious poems, in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. The maturation of his poetic style was also reflected in his plays, the most notable of which were published during this period.

Plays

Shawqi was the first in Arabic literature to write poetic plays. He wrote five tragedies:

  • Magnun Laila (literally "The Madman of Layla"), his first play.
  • The Death of Cleopatra, his most famous play.
  • Antara
  • Ali bek el-Kabeer
  • Qambeez

and two comedies:

  • Es-Set Huda (literally: Madam Huda)
  • El-Bakhila (literally: the Miser)

in addition to a prose play: the Princess of Andalusia.

Poetry

  • Esh-Shawqiyyat, his selected works, in four volumes, including Nahj al-Burda, a tribute to the Prophet Muhammad
  • A long poem about the History of Islam, named The States of Arabs and the Great Men of Islam.
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