Date of Thesis

Spring 2022


In 1977, the Syrian government banned Night of the Slaves, by Syrian playwright Mamdouh Adwan, on its opening night. Its censors were furious. The play’s director endured screams, shouts, and even death threats from government officials. Following this outcry, Night of the Slaves did not see another production for nearly fifty years. When I first read about this play, I was immediately intrigued. What made Night of the Slaves so controversial that it was banned on its opening night? In order to understand, I sought to translate Night of the Slaves from its original Arabic into English. I was surprised to find myself translating a universal story of oppression, through the lens of early Islamic history

In this thesis, I begin by delving into the history and context surrounding Night of the Slaves. First, I present a synopsis of the play itself. This is followed by an investigation into the history of Syrian theatre, including its relationship with colonialism and censorship. I then situate Mamdouh Adwan, the playwright of Night of the Slaves, in this historical and cultural context. Following this section, I examine multiple interpretations of the play’s meaning and eventual ban. In this section, I argue that Night of the Slaves is not a sectarian play about the religion of Islam, as some posit, but an allegory for how the rich and powerful exploit social movements for their own advantage. In the second section, in order to present this translation to a U.S. audience, I examine its applicability to the modern United States. I first draw comparisons between the powerful Quraysh tribe in Night of the Slaves to U.S. corporations and politicians. Following this comparison, I also analyze the main characters’ different reactions to oppression as well as how they relate to the modern U.S. context.

After this analysis, I present my full translation of Night of the Slaves, the bulk of this thesis. Throughout this translation, I include footnotes to give greater context for certain historical and religious references, as many terms and names related to Islamic history may be unfamiliar to a U.S. reader. I also include footnotes providing analysis and comparisons to more specific excerpts and lines. By the end of this thesis, I hope that the reader will not only gain greater exposure to non-Western theatre but understand the universality of the message within Night of the Slaves as well.


Arabic, Theatre, Translation, Social Movements, Syria, Playwright

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts


Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Second Major

International Relations

Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration

Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Martin Isleem

Second Advisor

Meenakshi Ponnuswami