Death and King's Horseman: A Review

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In the play Death and King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka, visual actions were used in conjunction with speech in order to brilliantly convey the themes and ideas. In a sense, the visual actions performed on stage can be as important as speech since the two elements complement each other in an effective manner. The playwright used various visual actions such as settings, movements, and dances to provoke greater understanding and greater effect of the play.

At the beginning of the play, the settings had already demonstrated to the audience the importance of Elesin Oba. The audience is able to see Elesin enters valiantly “along a passage before the market, pursued by his drummers and praise-singers.”(9) Even before any dialogue has been spoken on stage, the audience is already able to see that Elesin is a man of honour and vitality. The respect shown by the villagers towards Elesin when the women dance around him provided the audience with a resplendent scene that portrays the importance of Elesin’s duty. (17) The settings at the beginning of the play showed the theme of respect for tradition by the Yoruban people.

As the play progresses, the settings, along with costumes, provided a contrast between the superficiality of the colonialists and rich-filled culture of the Yoruban. The ball at the residency hosted by Pilkings showed the shallow understanding of the colonialists who were wearing the egungun costumes. Their bizarre costumes in a scene full of other misplaced costumes from the 17th century are likely to cause the audience to compare this setting with the earlier one in the Yoruban village. The visual settings of the play were able to convey the idea set out by Soyinka, which is the colonialists’ misunderstanding of the importance of the culture and tradition of the Yoruban.

The movements of the play also rival the speech as they were able to portray an idea that a speech cannot do easily. In the scene where Sergeant Amusa was...
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