Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Introduction: Death and the King's Horsemen

1. Soyinka, Wole. "Death and the King's Horseman." The Longman Anthology World Literature Vol. F. Ed. David Damrosch. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2004. 997-1017.

2. "Death and the King's Horseman" was written by Wole Soyinka in 1975. The play builds upon this story to focus on the character of Elesin, who is the King's Horseman. According to his people's tradition, the death of the Chief must be followed by the ritual suicide of the Chief's Horseman. Elesin was the horseman of the king so he must now commit suicide and be buried with him. The first half of the play shows the process of the ritual. Elesin keeps putting it off, and is eventually arrested for his own safty. The plays ends with Elesin's son committing suicide in his father's place to keep the honor of his people.

3. I had to do Acts IV-V for a presentation in my World Literature class and I liked what I read. Olunde, Elesin's son, comes home to bury is father because he got wind that the king was dead. What I found intriguing is that Olunde didn't agree with people trying to keep his father alive. He saw his father's self sacrifice as a noble gesture towards the king. He knew that his father's suicide would keep order in his people because it was a tradition to so if you were the horseman to an authority figure. The white man didn't see it that way. They saw it as a black man being foolish and throwing his life away. When Olunde saw his father alive he was very disappointed and said "I have no father..." (Soyinka 1007). I found it interesting that self sacrifice was so sacred to them that they shunned even family when they didn't go through with it, whether they were stopped by an outside source or not.

4. I suppose you can compare this to "Great Expectations" in a way, particularly self sacrifice. In the play Elesin has to make a sacrifice by killing himself, but because he hesitated, his son made that sacrifice instead. In the novel Pip makes a sacrifice in trying to get the prisoner to safety. Pip lied to the police, and abandoned his teachings as a gentleman to break the law and aid a criminal. Pip also sacrificed his home life to become a gentleman and to be with Estella. Pip's relationship with Joe was strained because of it, and he never ended up with Estella. Though Pip didn't die, his sacrifice was made.


RafaƂ Gadomski said...

Very interesting indeed. Pls let me know, if you plan to publish something about Spyinka's plays on the Inet.


PatrickHurt said...

I haven't read this play in a long time, but what I remember as being particularly interesting, was the clash of the two very different cultures that the play presents. It shows how the imperialistic Europeans tried to force their beliefs onto the natives of the countries where they exerted their control.