The Song of Death by Twafik Al-Hakim | Summary | Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11



The Song of Death by Twafik Al-Hakim | Summary | Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11
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The Song of Death by Twafik Al-Hakim | Summary | Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11

The Song of Death by Twafik Al-Hakim


The Song Of Death by Twafik-Al-Hakim

This one-act play, "The Song of Death," has been written by a prominent Egyptian writer, Tawfiq Al-Hakim. This play has presented various themes, such as hope, jealousy, betrayal, and vengeance. This play is about a peasant woman, Asakir, and her lifelong resolution, which shatters at the end of the play.

At the beginning of the play, we find two Upper-Egyptian peasant women, Asakir and Mabrouka, sitting in silence and listening for a train's whistle.

These two women are quite eagerly waiting for Alwan (Asakir's son), who has been away for 17 years. Asakir has sent him to Cairo for his study secretly.

They both talk secretly about the identity of Alwan. Asakir is hopeful about the secrecy of her son's identity. When she asks Mabrouka about this matter's secrecy, Mabrouka assures her sister, saying that the villagers know the fact that Alwan was drowned and died in the water well when he was a child of two years.

A bit later, Asakir proclaims to Mabrouka that her son will soon take revenge. Soon, the village will learn that her son, or the son of her murdered husband, is still alive. She has waited for her son for seventeen years, counting hour by hour. According to her, her fear has ended, and now the murderer of his father and the rest of the Tahawis should fear her son's vengeance.

To fetch Alwan from the station, Sumeida (Mabrouka's son) has been sent by Asakir with an instruction to sing at the arrival of Alwan.

A bit later, when the whistle of the departing train is heard, Sumeida's song is also heard from a distance, providing signs of the long-awaited arrival of Alwan. Sumeida enters the room, announcing his cousin Alwan. When Alwan enters, his mother, Asakir, embraces him. Alwan then greets his aunt, Mabrouka. Mabrouka tells him that "our hope lies in you" and leaves the room with her son, Sumeida.

Asakir starts a short, polite conversation and presents a saddlebag to her son, Alwan. She has kept the saddlebag for seventeen years. She relates to her son that her father's dead body was brought in the particular saddlebag to her on a donkey. She presents the knife of the murderer to her son too, on which there is the rust of blood. She kept the blood-stained knife in the past.

After a bit of silence, Alwan inquires about the person responsible for this crime. Asakir reveals to him the facts about Suweilam Tahawi without any hesitation. According to her, Suweilam Tahawi murdered his father seventeen years ago. When Alwan asks her how she knows all these things, she explains that the whole village knows. Later, Alwan inquires about the investigation related to his father's murder. Asakir tells him that they have no enemies except the Tahawis. She expects revenge against the Tahawis from her son, Alwan.

Alwan confronts his mother, saying that she is living in ignorance of the wrong traditions. He tells his mother that he hasn't come to the village to take revenge on or kill the person whom he hasn't seen. He reveals his intentions for arriving in his village. He wishes to bring a better life to all his villagers. He expects all his villagers to live in houses like humans, where animals don't sleep with them. They will have a better quality of life with access to the facilities of education and clean running water.

Asakir becomes quite irritated with her son's bookish words. She orders Alwan to move out of her house. She curses him for being angry. She thinks his position is futile. Alwan tells his mother that he will return to the station and then to Cairo. He prays to God to calm down his mother's violent soul. When Sumeida enters, he finds Asakir alone and motionless. She is shocked after hearing Alwan's words. She tells Sumeida that her son, Alwan, has returned to the station. According to her, Alwan wants to flee from his responsibility of taking revenge for his father.

She starts striking herself again and again. Sumeida becomes restless to find his aunt's acts. He tries his best to stop her from harming herself. Asakir demands the same old knife from Sumeida so that she can stab her belly. Sumeida tells his aunt that she has gone mad. She stares at him and asks, "Sumeida—are you a man?" When Sumeida asks her what she wants from him, she orders him to take the knife and plunge it into the chest of her son, Alwan. Sumeida is shocked to hear her words. But she urges him to kill his cousin.

Asakir hands the same knife to Sumeida with resolution and invokes, "May his blood wash off his father's blood that has dried on the blade."

Sumeida leaves the room with a knife, saying that if he finishes his task of killing Alwan, she will hear his voice raised in the song from the district office.

Next, Mabrouka enters with a salted fish for Alwan. She finds Asakir sitting alone. When she inquires about Alwan, Asakir tells her that Alwan has fled, refusing his duty to avenge his father's death. She refers to the fact that Alwan has died. She has a kind of fear on her face. Mabrouka becomes restless to find her different in her facial appearance. When she asks about her son Sumeida, Asakir tells her that he has gone to the station after Alwan to stop him from going. Asakir asks her about Sumeida's song, but Mabrouka doesn't hear anything. Mabrouka pleads with Asakir to listen to her, but Asakir screams that she hears nothing. Finally, Mabrouka hears Sumeida's singing. She turns and becomes terrified by her sister's state, and she asks desperately what is happening. Asakir cries loudly, "My Son!". Asakir becomes quite sad.

Here, in the dialogue between Asakir and Mabrouka, we learn that Asakir hopes that her son will escape on the train. But Simeida’s song confirms her son Alwan's death, and the play ends with Asakir’s grief.


The Song Of Death by Twafik-Al-Hakim

This play has presented the lives of two peasant women and their sons from a village in Upper Egypt. The play is about the main character's resolution, Asakir, who desires vengeance over her husband's murder. After her husband's murder, she sends her only son, Alwan, to live and study in Cairo secretly at the age of two years. She waits for seventeen years in her village with the expectation that her son will come and take revenge against Suweilam Tawahi, a murderer. When her son Alwan arrives, she presents him with a saddlebag and a knife. She relates the history of her husband's murder and wishes revenge on her son. After hearing his mother's intentions, Alwan refuses her wish directly. He explains his intentions for coming to his village. He doesn't want to kill someone he hasn't seen. He confronts his mother, saying that she is living her life in ignorance of the wrong traditions. Alwan has become a religious man and doesn't want to murder for his mother's wish. Asakir becomes quite angry and thinks his son's role is futile. When Alwan leaves for the station, Asakir sends Sumeida to kill Alwan with the same knife. Finally, Sumeida kills Alwan and sings the death song in a loud voice. Asakir becomes sad at last.


The Song Of Death by Twafik-Al-Hakim 

a. How does the play begin?


The play begins with the scene of two peasant women sitting at the entrance of a house in Upper Egypt. These two women are in black dresses and sitting in silence with their heads lowered.

b. Why has Asakir sent her only son to live in Cairo after her husband's murder? Does he fulfil her wish after his return?


Asakir has sent her only son to live in Cairo after her husband's murder because she has expected revenge from his son against his father's murderer after his return. No, he doesn't fulfil her wish after his return. He refuses his mother's wish to kill the person who killed his father.

c. Why doesn't Alwan want to kill his father's murderer?


Alwan doesn't want to kill his father's murderer because he has become a religious man after his education in Al Azhar. He doesn't want to take revenge on or kill the person he hasn't seen. He confronts his mother, saying that she lives in ignorance of the wrong traditions.

d. Who is Sumeida? Why does Asakir urge him to kill his cousin?


Sumeida is the nephew of the main character, Asakir. He is the son of Mabrouka. Asakir urges him to kill his cousin because she becomes quite upset with Alwan, who refuses to take revenge against his father's murderer. She thinks Alwan's position is futile. Asakir's lifelong resolution of revenge against the Tahawis is refused by Alwan.

e. How does the play end?


The play ends with the death of Asakir's son, Alwan, as well as her grief. She becomes quite sad after the death of her only son, Alwan.


1. Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow.

Asakir:  Alwan. Plunge this knife into his chest!

Sumeida:  Kill Alwan? Your son?

Asakir:  Yes, kill him, bring him to his death.

Sumeida:  Be sensible, Aunt!

Asakir:  Do it, Sumeida--for my sake and for his!

Sumeida: For his?

Asakir:  Yes, it is better for him and for me for it to be said that he was killed than that he shirked taking vengeance for his father.

a) What is Asakir asking Sumeida to do?


Asakir is asking Sumeida to kill his cousin, Alwan.

b) Who is Alwan?


Alwan is Asakir's only son and has spent his seventeen years in Cairo, away from his village.

c) Why does Asakir urge Sumeida to kill Alwan?


Asakir urges Sumeida to kill Alwan because she thinks Alwan's position is futile. Alwan refuses to accomplish her lifelong resolution of revenge against the Tawahis.

2. What is the theme of the play?


There are various themes here in this play, such as hope, jealousy, betrayal, and vengeance. The story of the play has presented a variety of aspects related to human nature and emotions. Here, we find the main character Asakir's long-term wish for revenge, which isn't fulfilled by her son Alwan, on whom the whole expectation depends. Asakir's hopes finally shatter, and the play ends with death and grief.

3. Write the summary of the play.


See above in Short Summary 


1. Describe the setting of the play.


This play has presented the rural setting of a village in Upper Egypt. The play has mainly focused on a set of peasant houses in a peasant village in Upper Egypt during the early 20th century. The whole play has been presented in the house as well as in the room of the main character, Asakir, a widowed peasant.

2. Draw the character sketch of Asakir.


Asakir is a widowed peasant who lives in her village, which is located in the rural part of Upper Egypt. She is a hopeful woman who has been waiting for seventeen years to accomplish her resolution of vengeance. She spends her whole life in a resolution to end her old blood feud.

In the past, her husband was murdered by a person called Suleiman Tawahi. She sent her only son, Alwan, to Cairo, creating a false story in her village. She kept on waiting for her son with a strong resolution of revenge in her heart after that.

She waits for seventeen years, counting each hour, for her son. She is fully confident that her son, Alwan, will obey her orders and kill her husband's murderer. But all her hopes shatter when her son, Alwan, refuses to do so. Her lifelong resolution seems useless. She thinks her son's role is futile. She makes her bold decision at last. She plans the murder of her son.

Asakir spends her entire life with the hope of her son. She remains quite away from her son so that she can be victorious in her lifetime resolution. But she has become unsuccessful at last with loss and grief.


1. Is it sensible to take revenge of murder? Why or why not? Justify your answer.


No, it is not sensible to take revenge for murder. I think it is a nonsensical idea to take revenge for murder. Revenge is not the right solution for murder. Killing someone for murder only brings bad and unexpected outcomes. Those people who move against rules and laws and commit crimes in society have to pay huge compensation for their bad deeds. The concept of revenge never allows someone to live peacefully. Revenge never brings dead people back to life. The feeling of revenge always degrades humans' mentalities and their progress in life. It can bring very bad results for all. Thus, revenge for murder isn't good at all. This concept destroys humans' lives.

2. 'Inciting people to kill other people is violence and against the justice and the right of the person to live.' Explain.


This statement is correct. In criminal law, incitement is the encouragement of another person to commit a crime. According to the law, some or all types of incitement may be illegal. Incitement can create worse situations for anyone at any time.

The act of inciting people to murder is one of the biggest crimes. Such an act of inciting people for criminal acts is violence, which is against justice and the right of people to live. People who incite others to criminal acts are the main criminals in the real sense. Such kinds of people are just like acid, who spoil everything. They are considered the enemies of humanity. Most people are encouraged to do illegal activities in their lives and face disastrous results.

Thus, we should remain away from the concept of crime and those people who encourage us to do the crime. If we are being incited by others to commit the crime, we will have to face problems in our lives. All these bad acts should not be done for the sake of humanity.



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