Death and the King’s Horsemen

I really enjoyed this play. To be honest I enjoy everything that has anything remotely to do with Africa, especially Nigeria. However, Death and the Kings Horsemen was a quick and enjoyable read.  My favorite thing about it was how the western view of death is contrasted with the Yoruba tribe’s view of death in the play, and the hypocrisies that become evident in the British’s logic.

At the beginning, the Yoruba tribe is celebrating death. It is something for Elesin to look forward to; it is even portrayed as a reward.  Then the British couple, Pilkings and Jane, are seen as making fun of death, or at least the way the Yoruba view death by wearing their sacred costumes.  It is ironic that they poke fun at death because they later try so hard to stop it.  But it is not surprising that they do so because they make fun of  EVERYTHING that the Yoruba do or say or believe in.

The greatest irony or hypocrisy of the play is when Jane and Olunde talk about war on page 44.  Olunde sees World War Two as mass suicide and does not like that the West glorifies the huge loss of so many human lives. Jane says that this is necessary for the good of the country. This is so ironic because later in the play the British do not understand why it is better for the Yoruba community for Elesin to die.  The British in the play do not understand the Yoruba’s way of putting the community before the individual when their government does the same thing in times of war.

There are a few other instances of hypocrisy concerning the theme of death in the play. Can you find them?


About Bethany

I am a Junior at American University, pursuing a degree in International Studies. I am particularly interested in development in Africa, especially when it comes to education. I am going abroad to Senegal for the spring semester and will be writing about my adventures here.

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