"Death and the King's Horseman" Analytical Essay by Primo

"Death and the King's Horseman"
An analysis of the play, "Death and the King's Horseman" by Wole Soyinka and the symbolism of death and burial.
# 6066 | 980 words | 0 sources | 2001 | US
Published on Feb 09, 2003 in Drama and Theater (World) , English (Analysis)

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This paper takes a look at this play which is set in post World War Two Nigeria and of the customs of burying a King. The play is based on a ritual that was practiced by the Yoruba tribe. If a king died, his horseman, horse and dog had to follow the king into the afterlife. These customs and rituals are analyzed for their symbolism throughout the play.

From the Paper:

"In "Death and the King's Horseman," Soyinka describes the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the ritual suicide of Elesin Oba, the King's chief horseman. On the day of the burial of the king the day of Elesin's suicide, the horseman is celebrated and praised. The Praise-Singer celebrates the life of Elesin. The village women glorify his exploits and the supreme sacrifice he is about to make. There is singing and dancing as part of the celebration. Elesin is arrayed in the richest and most colorful finery. A prominent woman Iyaloja acquiesces to Elesin's request to marry and consummate relationships, if only for one night, with a young beautiful woman who is betrothed to her own son. Such is the willingness of the village to glorify Elesin. After the marriage, the procession winds to the village and the place of the suicide ritual. Soyinka vividly and lyrically describes how the Praise-Singer plays devils advocate asking whether Elesin is ready to go through with it. Elesin is ready; he enters a trance that transcends the boundaries of physical feeling."

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