The neo-classical poet Aḥmad Shawqī (1868–1932), was by no means the first to write verse drama in Arabic, for the early attempts at writing plays by Marun al-Naqqash, and his nephew Salim and al-Qabbani included works in verse or in a mixture of verse and prose, generally rhyming prose. Their verse, however, was of an indifferent quality and was often meant only to be sung on the stage. It was a different story with Ahmad Shawqi. With the exception of his earliest venture in this field, the first version of ʿAlī Bey al-Kabīr which he composed in 1893 while he was still studying in France, and which did not receive sufficient encouragement from his patron to enable him to continue along that road, Shawqi turned to verse drama much later in his career, during the last four years of his life to be exact (1928–32), when his reputation as a supreme Arabic poet was still at its highest, both in Egypt and in the whole Arab world. Because of his prestige as a poet writing within the classical Arabic tradition, as well as the high quality of the poetry he used in his plays, which put it head and shoulders above the mediocre verse produced by the earliest dramatists of the nineteenth century, Shawqi's plays contributed greatly to rendering Arabic poetic drama an acceptable mode of writing.
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