This introductory chapter summarizes the journey of Shakespeare's Hamlet through the post-1952 Arab world and discusses this study's contributions to Arab politics and literary studies in general. Here, the chapter shows how the character Hamlet's central concern is the problem of historical agency. He asks what it means “to be” rather than “not to be” in a world where “the time is out of joint” and one's very existence as a historical actor is threatened. He thus encapsulates a debate coeval with and largely constitutive of modern Arab identity: the problem of self-determination and authenticity. Following Hamlet's Arab journey, the chapter attempts to clarify one of the most central and widely misunderstood preoccupations of modern Arab politics.
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