AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 8, Number 1. February 2024 Pp.73-81

The Hierarchy of Dogs and Men: Satire in Mamdouh ʿUdwan’s Drama

Department of World Languages and Cultures
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX, USA

Corresponding Author szahrawi@shsu.edu


This paper will study the satirical representation of the human condition under poverty and political oppression in Syria. People are sardonically presented as inferior to animals in four plays by the Syrian dramatist Mamdouh ʿUdwan: The Feudal Lord’s Dog, The Bitten Bitch, and The Ambassador’s Dog. With the knowledge of the pejorative connotations the Arabic language associates with the term “dog”, these plays can be considered as a poignant mockery of the situation in ʿUdwan’s world 1941-2004 and a prophetic extrapolation of the present abyss. Through textual analysis, this study will delineate people’s servility and the loss of integrity under local political oppression as communicated in the ironical mix-up between the death of the dog and that of the lord in The Feudal Lord’s Dog The sarcastic presentation of a pampered female dog publishing a newspaper column complaining of lack of emotional and sexual fulfillment contrasts wittily with the inadequacy of basic human rights afforded to the journalist, in The Bitten Bitch. Lastly, The Ambassador’s Dog cynically reverses the human-animal hierarchy, as it celebrates the superior quality of life enjoyed by dogs in an unnamed superpower country. The value of human life in Syria has plummeted to the extent that the dog sitter is happy to sacrifice his life to save a dog. This article will evaluate ʿUdwan’s satire of the status quo in his country and investigate whether it is a genuine means of communication to circumvent censorship, or alternatively, it is only a form of licensed criticism used as a valve of pseudo-freedom approved by an authoritarian government.

Cite as:

Zahrawi, S. (2024). The Hierarchy of Dogs and Men: Satire in Mamdouh ʿUdwan’s Drama. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 8 (1): 73-81.


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Samar Zahrawi received her Ph.D. in Modern Drama from the University of Leeds, the U.K., in 1992. She taught modern drama at Al-Baath University, Syria, and King Saud University, KSA. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Sam Houston State University, Texas, USA. Having a background in English and comparative drama, her current research interest is Arabic drama, Arabic culture, and translation studies.
ORCid https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6897-523X