The Tragic Hero in Death and the King’s Horseman

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TOPIC: Who is , Elesin Oba or Olunde? Please give reasons for your answer in a carefully written essay. Please use “Being, the Will, and the Semantics of Death” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Criticism 155-164) and “Tragedy, Mimicry, and the African World” by Olakunle George (Criticism 207-222) in your essay. The Real Tragic Hero Of The Nation

The drama “Death and the King’s Horseman” written by Wole Soyinka tells a story that relates to the burial of the dead king of the Oyo, which is held by the ancient Yoruba in Africa. According to the tradition of the Yoruba, after thirty-day of the king’s death, his horseman Elesin must commit suicide in the rite in order to accompany the king passing through the holy passage towards the world of the other side. Moreover, Olunde, the eldest son of Elesin, who is sent to the medical college in England by the colonial government, returned home in time in order to burying his father who is dead of the traditional accompanying custom. However, since Elesin is sentimentally attached to the mortal life, Pilkings, the chief executive of the colonial area, seizes his hesitation and gets the opportunity of preventing him from fulfilling the obligation which is regarded as an uncivilized convention in the western culture. Furthermore, after doing his utmost persuading Pilkings not to intervene the rite, Olunde replaced his father resolutely as the accompanier of the king on his passage to the holy paradise. What’s more, by losing the honor, dignity, and the respect from the public, Elesin commits the suicide with sheer shame. For this article, it is clear that Elesin should be the tragic hero in the drama and I will discuss the point that Elesin’s tragic fate is not merely caused by the Yoruba society itself and the colonial inference but also by himself, through explaining some exact proof from the original drama and evaluating some thesis from the article “Being the Will, and the Semantics of Death” written by Henry Louis Gates, JR. and “Tragedy, Mimicry, and ‘The African World’” written by Olakunle George. On the one hand, a part of Elesin’s tragic fate stems from the double background-the nation and the colonial government. Firstly, the tradition of racial Elesin is born with decides his tragic life. Since Elesin’s family inherits the status as the King’s horseman generation by generation, he must perform the ordained duty—accompany the King to die so that he earns the honor and is of great eminence in the community. It seems that everything he has is based on the holy mission under his shoulder. In the drama, Soyinka suggests that the importance of the collective social and psychic aspirations of the Oyo community. It is indispensable for the Yoruba that chooses a person to mediate the world of the living, the dead, and the unborn. According to Olakunle George, Elesin plays the role as a ritual scapegoat who accedes to the world of the dead on behalf of the living and the unborn (208). That is to say, his death is a reflection of the communal will to ensure renewed harmony between the constitutive of traditional Yoruba cosmic order and the continuity of Oyo social-spiritual harmony. Although it seems reasonable that Elesin can get everything including power, status and wealth as the repayment of his sacrifice, he cannot get the right of his life freely. Praise-singer illustrates that the world is never tilted from its groove and this principle should not be changed in his, and also the world is never wrenched from its true course, this forces Elesin to achieve his duty firmly and brings him the hero title from the public(6). Secondly, during that period of time, the local colonial government has the opposite religious opinion on the birth and death with Yoruba so that the interference of the death ritual from the government stimulates the final tragedy. With regard to Yoruba, the captain’s self-sacrifice is an affirmative commentary on life (42) and it is extreme glory to...
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