Ahmad Shawqi is the only poet in the Arab literary tradition who
was granted the title of " Amir al- Sho’araa’, literally trhe ‘Prince
of Poets (1927).|
His twofold contribution to the arab literary
tradition residesnot only in a sizable body of poems published in an
anthology known as " Sawqiyyat’' , but also in his pioneering
introduction of poetic drama into the Arabic literary tradition.
Commenting on Shawqi’s use of rhymed verse in drama for the
first time, critic Taher at-Tanahi (1967) popints out that Shawqi
did for Arabic literature what Shakespeare had done for English
Shawqi was born in Cairo, in 1870, during the regn of Khedive Ismail in Egypt . After completing his high school
education, he joined the Department of Translation of the School of Law ., His poetic genius , which had revealed itself
early on, won him a scholarship to France , where he resumed his study of law at the
Universities of Montpellier and Paris , respectively.It was during his stay in France that he was heavily influenced by
French drama , particularly the plays of Moliere and Racine.
back home , he was appointed at the court of Khedive
Abbas. Upon the outbreak of World War I, the Khedive was dethroned and Shawqi himsellf
was exiled to Spain. . When the war was over , he returned to Egypt where he became a member of the Parliament.
He died in 1932.
Shawqi wrote seven plays: six tragedies and one comedy. Three out of the six are historical plays with patriotic themes:
The Death of Cleopatra, Qambeez and Ali Bey Al-Kabeer.
The other three plays are more embedded in the Arab Islamic background: namely, Majnun Laila, Antara and The
Princess of Andalusia.