A Study of the Arms Dealer in Suleyman Al-Bassam's "The Al-Hamlet Summit"

Term Paper, 2013

8 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Ghost vs. the Arms Dealer
2.1 Frequency
2.2 Interaction with other Characters
2.3 Motivation

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Ever since Hamlet was written in 1599 it has been adapted countless times.Shakespeare’s plot, as it was written over 400 years ago is still relevant formodern directors all over the world. It offers a great variety of different themes.In his Hamlet adaption Yorick, Salman Rushdie concentrates on the backgroundand context of the main characters, criticizing the lack of logic in the originalplot. His adaption also introduces the element of comedy into the original play.A fairly recent production of Shakespeare’s tragedy is Suleyman Al-Bassam’s The Al-Hamlet Summit. This adaption was first staged on 7 August, 2002 at the Pleasance Studios in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival. The Arabic versionof the play was only performed two years later on 14 February 2004 at the Tokyo International Arts Festival in Japan. Al-Bassam’s adaption is set in the Middle-East of modern times. There are some major changes to Shakespeare’soriginal version in Al-Bassam’s text.

Apart from the changes in setting and plot, the author makes significantchanges concerning the main characters of the play. The Al-Hamlet Summit lacks the character of the ghost, the initiator of the tragic conflict in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Instead, he introduces a totally new character to theplay: the person of the Arms Dealer. He triggers the conflict between Hamletand his uncle Claudius and fuels their hatred of each other. But Al-Bassam evengoes a step further: Unlike the ghost in the original Hamlet, the Arms dealerdoes not only influence Hamlet but also the other main characters, providingthe opposing parties with weapons. That means the Arms Dealer takes over thefunction of the ghost.

The main conflict of the original play is Hamlet’s inner dilemma. In The Al-Hamlet Summit, the main conflict is of a political nature. Consequently, thecharacter of the Arms Dealer, although he fulfills the same function as theghost, is portrayed differently. In the following term paper I will attempt toanalyze these two characters in Shakespeare and Al-Bassam’s version of Hamlet. First, I will shortly examine the frequency of their presence on stageand the frequency and significance of their interactions with the othercharacters. Then I will analyze the two characters’ motivation, with regard to personal interests and aims.

2. The Ghost vs. the Arms Dealer

2.1 Frequency

While the ghost in Shakespeare's Hamlet only appears three times throughoutthe play, the Arms Dealer in Suleyman Al-Bassam’s The Al-Hamlet Summit turns up more often. According to the studies of the German philosopher andhumanities scholar Manfred Pfister, the likeability of a character depends on,among other factors, how often a character appears on stage (cf. Pfister 20-34).The more often a character turns up throughout the play the more we learnabout him at first hand and the more sympathetic we feel for him.

A character can only characterize himself by appearing on stage as oftenas possible and thus sympathy is created by focusing on one specific character.Despite of the fact that the Arms Dealer appears more often throughout theplay, I consider the audience to feel more sympathetic for the ghost than for thearms dealer. The ghost only turns up three times throughout the play butnevertheless we experience him as a character who has to suffer and who actsin an understandable way while keeping in mind that the Arms Dealer is clearlyof an evil nature which will be explained in the following chapters.

2.2 Interaction with other Characters

As mentioned before the ghost appears three times throughout the play. At thebeginning of act one the ghost is first seen by Horatio and the two guards Marcellus and Bernado. Horatio wants the ghost to speak to him and to revealhis intentions - but this very first time the ghost of Hamlet's father appears heremains silent. “If thou hast any sound or use of voice, [s]peak to me. If therebe any good thing to be done [t]hat may to thee do ease and grace to me” (p.160-161, ll. 125-129). This first appearance of the ghost creates interest and issupposed to catch the audience's attention. The second time the ghost appears he tells Hamlet to wreak revenge on his uncle Claudius. “- Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder!” (p. 213, l. 25). This request to Hamlet sets the whole action in motion and furthers the narrative. The third and last time the ghost appears, he reminds Hamlet of not losing focus of his main aim - the act of taking revenge on his uncle Claudius which obviously means killing him. In general the ghost can only be seen by Hamlet except for the beginning of the play where he can also be seen by Horatio and the guards.

In Suleyman Al-Bassam's The Al-Hamlet Summit the Arms Dealerappears more often throughout the play and speaks to multiple characters. Incontrast to the ghost he can be seen by all the other characters in the play. Hecommunicates with the other characters - except for Laertes - mainly becausehe wants to sell his weapons to them. The first time the Arms Dealer speaks to Hamlet he gives him some pamphlets accusing Claudius of the murder of Hamlet's father. When speaking to Gertrude for the first time the Arms Dealerblackmails her by showing her pictures of her private retreat. “I just love thecountryside! I believe I’m already familiar with the place” (p. 57, ll. 15-16).The Arms Dealer also speaks both to Ophelia who needs a bomb and to Claudius and Polonius for several times throughout the play.

The central conflict in The Al-Hamlet Summit is different from the onein Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet’s inner conflict in the original play haschanged to a political conflict in which every character in Suleyman Al-Bassam's play takes part. Consequently the Arms Dealer - in contrast to theghost - has to interact with all the characters in order to fulfill his aims; he hasto become visible for all the other characters. In order to fulfill the samefunction as the ghost in Shakespeare’s Hamlet this role had to be adapted insuch a way.

Referring to Pfister again the interaction with other characters in the play is closely connected to the likeability of a character. If a character that is liked by the audience dislikes another character, the audience will adopt the first character’s opinion. At the same time they will disagree with the opinion of a character they dislike (cf. Pfister 20-34).


Excerpt out of 8 pages


A Study of the Arms Dealer in Suleyman Al-Bassam's "The Al-Hamlet Summit"
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz  (Fachbereich 05 Department of English and Linguistics)
Seminar: British Literature I – Adapting Hamlet
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
447 KB
Adapting Hamlet, Arms Dealer, The Al-Hamlet Summit, Shakespeare
Quote paper
M.Ed. Christopher Domke (Author), 2013, A Study of the Arms Dealer in Suleyman Al-Bassam's "The Al-Hamlet Summit", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/431057


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: A Study of the Arms Dealer in Suleyman Al-Bassam's "The Al-Hamlet Summit"

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free