Culture in "Death and the King's Horseman" Analytical Essay

Looks at the contradicting cultural narratives of the British and Yoruban people in Wole Soyinka's play "Death and the King's Horsemen".
# 150465 | 1,555 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2010 | US
Published on Feb 19, 2012 in Drama and Theater (World) , Ethnic Studies (Africa) , Sociology (Multiculturalism)

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This paper stresses that the viewers must not see Wole Soyinka's play "Death and the King's Horsemen" as East versus West or colonial versus indigenous because the conflict between cultural narratives in this play do not represent a clash of cultural traditions and practices. Reviewing the plot, the author relates how these cultural narratives are intertwine into the play's action, such as Olunde's decision to commit suicide, and are constitutive of history ensuring the remembrance of its contents. The paper concludes that, like Olunde in his play, Soyinka is attempting to re-write the Yoruban cultural narrative to ensure its continuance beyond a historical footnote and to guarantee its inclusion in the contemporary neo-colonial world.

From the Paper:

"Olunde, however, engages in a remarkably different dialectic with both the colonial narrative and the Yoruban narrative. In the play, Olunde is the only character to move relatively seamlessly through the discordant narratives. Several other characters make valiant efforts at moving between the colonial and indigenous cultural narratives but ultimately fail; for example, the character of Amusa is relatively successful at this, but because he has never actually left Africa and experienced British culture first-hand, he reflects the negative aspect of the ability to move through both narratives. Lacking agency, he does not display capability for individual thought; he merely dutifully follows orders, exemplified when he says "I arrest ringleader but I treat egungun with respect" and then proceeds to "write in [his] notebook, somewhat laboriously." After spending time studying medicine in England and experiencing the contradictions between the reality of England's violent conflict and the history/reality the media creates for the public, Olunde comes to understand "how history is made". In conversation with Jane Pilkings, Olunde demonstrates the knowledge he acquired overseas when he likens his father's ritual suicide to the suicide of a British sea captain. Jane "understands" the captain's self-sacrifice because "there was no other way to save lives. No time to devise anything else."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Soyinka, Wole. "Death and the King's Horseman." Modern African Drama. Ed. Biodun Jeyifo. Norton: New York, 2002. 126 - 177
  • Soyinka, Wole. "Theatre in African Traditional Cultures: Survival Patterns." Modern African Drama. Ed. Biodun Jeyifo. Norton: New York, 2002. 421 - 433.
  • Williams, Adebayo. "Cultural Death and the King's Horseman." Modern African Drama. Ed. Biodun Jeyifo. Norton: New York, 2002. 561-566.

Cite this Analytical Essay:

APA Format

Culture in "Death and the King's Horseman" (2012, February 19) Retrieved May 21, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Culture in "Death and the King's Horseman"" 19 February 2012. Web. 21 May. 2022. <>