EJOTMAS: Ekpoma Journal of Theatre and Media Arts

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Contrapuntal Significations in Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman

Olagoke Olorunleke Ifatimehin


Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman has been widely acclaimed as a great example of African tragedy. It is, in fact, the dramatic aggregation of Soyinka's treatise in Myth, Literature and the African World. Hence, the play is most often 'read' in the lights of its 'difference' from western notions of the tragic, the place of ritual in African drama and the interface of myth and history in creating drama, among others. As a result of these, and influenced largely by the author's note on the play, Death and the King's Horseman is rarely considered as a play on the 'clash of cultures', which is usually viewed as a 'reductionist' orientation or reading. This article, however, engages the text from the purview of cultural clash in order to apprehend the very catalyst that sparks the tragic concerns in it. By applying deconstructionist reading upon the text, the paper plies on the horizon of contrapuntality and alterity to reveal significations which hint at the difference in cultural worldviews as the essence of the tragedy that is Death and the King's Horseman. It also suggests that such a reading enriches, rather than reduces, the textuality and significations of the play beyond pseudo-scientific taxonomies.

Keywords: Deconstruction, Wole Soyinka, Contrapuntality, Alterity, Significations

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