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Zaïre is a five-act French tragedy in verse by Voltaire (1694-1778)[1].

The play's name sometimes occurs as Zaire.

The original text

Written in the space of three weeks in 1732, it was given its first public performance on 13 August 1732 by the Comédie française at the Théâtre de la rue des Fossés Saint-Germain in Paris. Considered his best play, often performed, it owes something to Othello in its plot.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into English by Aaron Hill (1685–1750)[2] as Zara, and performed at London's Drury Lane Theatre in 1736, becoming the most frequently staged English adaptation of a Voltaire play.

The play inspired at least thirteen operas over the years.

South African productions

1803: A performance of this popular work is advertised for the new theatre (the African Theatre) in the Kaapsche Stadts Courant of 29 January 1803. However great uncertainty about the company that presented the play. Fletcher (1994) argues that it may have been a touring British production, rather than a local one by the English Theatrical Company or by a Dutch company, while Bosman[3] (1928: footnote on pp. 81-2) by a process of elimination concludes that it is most likely the first advertised Dutch production at the Cape, most probably by the amateur company Het Hollandsch Liefhebbery Genootschap, bearing the motto Tot Leering en Vermaak. As the title given in the advert is the French title, not the English one, Bosman's argument seems sound enough.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928[4]

Jill Fletcher, 1994

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