Rabat - Indeed, Shakespeare, in person, paid a surprise visit, not “visitation”[i] to Rabat to gratify the inhabitants of the capital city with a presentation of his masterpiece “Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark,” to show, in the words of Marcellus to Horatio, that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” (Act 1, Scene 4) or maybe in the whole world at the time being.
Rabat – Indeed, Shakespeare, in person, paid a surprise visit, not “visitation”[i] to Rabat to gratify the inhabitants of the capital city with a presentation of his masterpiece “Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark,” to show, in the words of Marcellus to Horatio, that “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” (Act 1, Scene 4) or maybe in the whole world at the time being.
No doubt, this play is, probably, the best play of all times and all places and for the umpteenth time everybody enjoyed Hamlet’s universal questioning of human existence, in the ever famous soliloquy that everyone identifies with at some point in one’s life:
To be, or not to be? That is the question—
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
Act 3, Scene 1
Shakespeare loves Morocco
Shakespeare never ever questioned his infatuation for Morocco, he has shown it in his famous play “Othello the Moor,” who out of unjustified jealousy,all incited by the bad Iago, strangles beautiful Desdemona, to express his possessive love for her.
Apparently Shakespeare heard of the exploits of the Berber Othello from various British merchants doing trade with the rich city-state of Venice.Venice, a mythical city in the water, a world capital of finance and trade in the 17th century mobilised this Moroccan Berber commander and his mercenary warriors to protect the city from the Ottomans, the pirates and all possible dangers. Othello because of his proverbial bravery got adopted by the Venetian society and as such was married to the beautiful Desdemona, who will perish at his hands because of jealously, this curse that is as old as humanity.
However, for the critics, “The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice,” a play by William Shakespeare, is believed to have been written in 1603 and is inspired and based on the story entitled: “Un Capitano Moro” (“A Moorish Captain“) by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565.
Othello with his wife Desdemona
Not mindful that the twin city of Rabat, Salé, was once the capital of the pirates “Sallee Rovers” or “Salé Rovers” in the 17th century, who, apparently, sailed all the way to England to bring slaves with blue blood and sell them to the highest bidder in the souks of the city. These pirates were stopped by the Sultan after a signed agreement with the British Crown. Indeed, Harrison, an envoy of King James 1 signed an agreement with the corsairs of the Salé Republic in 1627 to spare British ships in the Atlantic with the blessing of Sultan Moulay Zidane. John Harrison left Salé with 190 prisoners, 5 of which were British.
Shakespeare makes English a global idiom
Shakespeare came to Rabat with his famed theatre, the Globe that was burned down entirely in 1613 and rebuilt one year later. The Globe was the illustrious guest of Mohammed V Theatre. Shakespeare insisted, once more, in a wonderful manner, through Hamlet, when addressing the players of the marvelous “play within a play,” to use his art to put up a mirror to the world (in the play it is intended for the king) and he did:
Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this
special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature:
for any thing so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose
end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere the
mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own
image, and the very age and body of the time his form and
Dozens of students of the English language from the university and high schools listened religiously to Hamlet’s linguistic advice, with the hope to speak English like the players one day in the future. Queen’s English and British English are very popular in the land of Morocco to the extent that thousands demanded the government to make it the first foreign language in the country and the later pondered over this popular demand.
The numerous public that came in droves, wanted, also, to see the procrastinating prince Hamlet torture the lovely Ophelia, who lost her mind as a result of unrequited love for him. He, as ever, insisted to send her to the nunnery because, for him, she is like his mother Queen Gertrude who betrayed his father when she married the present king, both destitute of virtue.
Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
Act 3, Scene 1
Shakespeare did well to come to Rabat, the Moroccan government short of not declaring English language the first foreign language to avoid embarrassing the French, has nevertheless, after curtailing the Arabic language, introduced English in the fourth year of the primary track: a first in the annals of education in Morocco. Maybe in the near future “Hamlet”will be taught alongside “Le Cid” of the French writer Pierre Corneille, in secondary schools. In the meantime, Shakespeare asks Moroccans to go on excelling in learning English:
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier
spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with
your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very
torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of
passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance
that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the
soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear
a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the
groundlings, who for the most part are capable of
nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would
have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant;
it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.
Act 3, Scene 2
The play of plays
Thanks to British Council Morocco and its dynamic team and the British Embassy in Rabat, the itinerant Globe theatre of Shakespeare brought warmth and joy to the hearts of hundreds of Moroccan in this cold winter evening. The actors were very professional and intimate in their performance to the extent that they made everyone feel comfortable and happy. It was a wonderful moment of escapism and suspension of disbelief, not to forget of course that it was a collective therapy after which people felt great and grateful.
William Shakespeare, poet and playwright (1564-1616)
The Globe Theatre was successful in making Shakespeare a global intellectual property and a global intangible human cultural asset. From Rabat, one can surely assert that British theatre is gone global with this enjoyable escapade of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Good night sweet prince Hamlet.
Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But look, amazement on thy mother sits.
O, step between her and her fighting soul.
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.
Speak to her, Hamlet.
Act 3, Scene 4
You can follow Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter @Ayurinu
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