Love and Feminine Virtue: Reconsidering the Women of Shahnameh Through Naqqāli
Shahnameh, written in Persian (Farsi) by Abolqasem Ferdowsi in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, is Iran’s national epic poem and a renowned work of Persian history and mythology. The women of Shahnameh and “Mehr,” a uniquely Persian notion of feminine virtue, has historically been important, with Mehr worship and rituals practiced by men and women in pre-modern Iran. Some critics, especially Western scholars, have ignored women and Mehr in Shahnameh except for examples of “bad women” in a few stories of Shahnameh. Mehr is both domestic and public, playing an integral role in the maintenance of humanity, culture, civilization, and moral values. There have been several studies in Farsi of the women of Shahnameh, documenting Mehr, myth, and feminine virtue. However, questions have been raised about Ferdowsi’s view of women, and many of the studies of the women of Shahnameh, are vague when it comes to whether Ferdowsi was proto-feminist, anti-feminist, or merely a product of his time. This study aims to develop a narrative video game, using modern interactive tools, and applying the principles of Naqqāli, traditional single-performer theatre. The narrative game employs evocative techniques to retell stories, exploring women and the complex concept of “Mehr”. Previous studies of traditional Naqqāli, have not dealt with expressing the absolute feminine virtue of Shahnameh, neither the hidden background of Mehr, nor another mythos which represents Mehr. In this regard, the study tries to implement an English-language adaptation of selected stories from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh that explore Mehr and womanhood. However, there are a lot of adaptation of stories from Shahnameh in Iran, but they tend to ignore women. This study provides a novel research approach, and makes Shahnameh accessible to contemporary women. Research methodologies explored in this exegesis include content analysis, descriptive-discursive analysis, and term and verses literary analysis.