Existentialist Temperament in African Drama: A Reading of Tewfik Al-Hakim’s Plays

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International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume V, Issue VIII, August 2021 | ISSN 2454–6186

Existentialist Temperament in African Drama: A Reading of Tewfik Al-Hakim’s Plays

Oko Eze Ernest1, & Chika Iwuoha-Chibueze2
1Department of English, University of Abuja, Nigeria
2Department of English, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

IJRISS Call for paper

Abstract: Many critical theories have developed over the years as a result of the complex nature of the modern world. There is a change from the colossal theories to more explicit ones, and existentialism is one of such theories. Existentialism is a concept which has been applied to the works of a group of nineteenth and twentieth century philosophers, thinkers, and writers, who share the belief that man’s quest to determine the self in the modern world is met by hostility and indifference in a world bedevilled by war, oppression, strife, kidnapping, senseless killings, among others. The concept of existentialism is made popular in the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and most writers of this period wrote works of literature to capture the nothingness of life and equally demonstrate this unfortunate reality in the society. Findings reveal that existentialism appears relevant to the explication and criticism of these African dramas. Therefore, this essay seeks to explicate Tewfik Al-Hakim’s plays: Fate of a Cockroach, The Song of Death, and Sultan’s Dilemma, as existentialist dramas and concludes that, though, some of the plays under explication are humours and even absurd, they discuss and reiterate serious issues of life pertaining to man’s search for independence.

Keywords: African Drama, Existentialism, Fate of a Cockroach, The Song of Death, Sultan’s Dilemma, Tewfik Al-Hakim


Literature, across the globe, derives from man’s interaction with his environment. It originates from man’s conscious intent to express his feelings, responses and reactions to issues, that is, socio-political, socio-economic, spiritual and psychological issues of his time and society. Therefore, the literary artist, literature and society share a triadic relationship. This connectedness has its attendant effects on the artist, his art, and the society. This mode of interacting shows that literature plays a paradoxical role of providing pleasure and also providing the society with moral consequences of social actions and situations. This dual role is expanded by L.O Bamidele, in Oko (2010: 1):
By all means of style, metaphor, dazzling narrative technique, the humorous and the melodramatic that we could apply to reading and enjoying literature, the framework of the novel (fiction) will be a bad one if it bears no direct revelation to the social world, or as we say, if it does not reflect the reality of life as lived.
The above scholar’s assertion buttresses the fact that literature especially that written by Africans, is a social phenomenon that springs from the creative consciousness of the writer. It must have a goal, which is to impact on the society. Therefore, Al-