The Importance of Individual Duty - Death and the King's Horseman

Topics: Suicide, Wole Soyinka, Religion Pages: 3 (1283 words) Published: September 18, 2010
Rights and Duties are an integral part of everyone’s life. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for this world to go on if we do not assume our rights and duties. As Nelson Rockefeller said, I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation, every possession, a duty. Everyone in this world has some duty to perform, ranging from the head of the country to run the county to a common man to earn bread for his household. Wole Soyinka in his play Death and the King’s horseman shows the commitment of the characters towards their duties and the conflicts that arise when they try to fulfill their duties. Wole Soyinka shows Elesin as a person who enjoys a luxurious life of rich food and fine clothing, the rewards of a man of his position. He enjoys all the fame thinking of it as his right of being a king’s horseman who after the death of the king will accompany him to the after world. In return for these rights, Elesin has to perform his religious duty, towards his king, of committing the ritual suicide after the death of the king. But the human nature of self-interest and selfishness overrides his duties after the death of the king. ‘‘A weight of longing on my (his) earth-held limbs’’ (1010) that is, because of the worldly pleasures, he betrays his master by not having the will to commit the ritual suicide. And thus, Elesin gives in to the temptation of having his life prolonged so that he can enjoy the company of his new bride. On the one hand, Wole presents a character like Elesin, who refuses to fulfil his duty for fulfilling his earthly desires. On the other hand, there is Amusa, who being a Yoruban himself, is “a police officer in the service of his majesty’s government” (984). Amusa’s religious duty is to let the ritual take place as it has been since centuries, but his duty towards the British Government is exactly opposite to his religious duty. Being a police officer, he has to stop the suicide ritual to protect...
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