mir anis-William Shakespeare Comparison – Intro

mir anis-Shakespeare – syed Ghulam imam

At the outset let me acknowledge the gift that one of the readers of UrduShahkar has made.  Asad Zaidi, a dear friend, who has for a long time offered a lot of encouragement for UrduShahkar came across this great book “Anis & Shakespeare” written by one Syed Ghulam Imam, BA, LLB, Advocate, Lucknow.  The book does not say much about the author anywhere in it and the only real reference to his work/scholarship is the opening paragraph of the preface …

“When I read Shakespeare in my college days, I was dimly conscious of the fleeting resemblance with Anis in his expressions and ideals.  Yearly contact with Anis in Moharram was inevitable, and the desire to find out substantial material for comparison was always lurking.  My studies disclosed that they were similar inspite of the reasons that could have created incomparable differences.  I collected the instances , and published them in the Muslim Review.”

A picture of the author also appears in the book and the least I can do is re-produce it here.

A few bare facts about Anis and Shakespeare to help put this comparison in perspective.

William Shakespeare 1564-1616 is considered the foremost poet of the English language with 38 plays, 154 sonnets and 2 narrative poems.  I estimate that at about 120,000 lines of verse.

There is NO evidence and NO implication that Anis knew of Shakespeare or copied from him or even was inspired by him.  NONE WHATSOEVER.

Mir Babar Ali Anis 1802 (Faizabad) – 1874 (Lucknow), which makes him a contemporary of Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869).  Azad (1830-1910) in his narrative of Urdu poetry and poets, aab-e-hayaat (1880) attributes 3000 marsias to Anis.  I estimate that at 1.8 million lines of verse.  Add to these the numerous nauhas, salaams and rubaaiis – getting the total to perhaps 2.5 million lines.

Anis wrote almost exclusively about the battle of Karbala in form of marsia (elegy).  This gave ample scope to write about raw human emotions – brave stand in the face of death, loss of loved ones, scenes of battle – swords and horses, valour, virtue, legacy, lineage, life and death, righteousness and many more.  It is here that there is parallelism with Shakespeare who also writes about similar human emotions in the most powerful and expressive language of the time and indeed enduring over time.

Syed Ghulam Imam compiled what he saw as similarities between Anis and Shakespeare with very few comments of his own and without much annotation or reference to the background of the quoted passages.  This helps concentrate the mind on the similarities as they are quoted.  I have provided only minimum comments and background to selected quotes to retain the spirit of the original.  I could add annotations to selected Shakespeare passages only because of searchable Shakespeare sites on the web.

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