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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $16.00
  • November 2002
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-97761-5
  • 272 pages
  • Territory Rights: USA and Dependencies and the Philippines.

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Death and the King's Horseman

Norton Critical Editions


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Wole Soyinka (Author), Simon Gikandi (Editor, University of Michigan)


This Norton Critical Edition of Death and the King's Horseman is the only student edition available in the United States. Based on events that took place in 1946 in the ancient Yoruban city of Oyo, Soyinka's acclaimed and powerful play addresses classic issues of cultural conflict, tragic decision-making, and the psychological mindsets of individuals and groups. The text of the play is accompanied by an introduction and explanatory annotations for the many allusions to traditional Nigerian myth and culture.

"Backgrounds and Sources" helps readers understand Death and the King's Horseman's traditional African contexts and the role of theater in African culture. Included are a map of Yoruba-land, discussions of Yoruban religious beliefs and cultural traditions, Soyinka on the various forms that theater has taken in African culture in order to survive, and Anthony Appiah on Soyinka's struggle with the problem of African identity in the creation of Death and the King's Horseman. Commentary on the play as both a theatrical production and a classroom text is provided by Gerald Moore, Tanure Ojaide, and Martin Rohmer.

"Criticism" collects nine major essays on the play and the difficulties it presents to readers. Contributors include D. S. Izevbaye, Eldred Durosimi Jones, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Biodun Jeyifo, Wole Soyinka, Joan Hepburn, Adebayo Williams, David Richards, and Olakunle George.

A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.




    The Text of Death and the King’s Horseman

    Backgrounds and Contexts

    1. Map of Yorubaland
    2. Henry John Drewel, John Pemberton III, and Rowland Abiodun – The Yoruba World
    3. Duro Lapido – Oba Waja
    4. Wole Soyinka – Theatre in African Traditional Cultures: Survival Patterns
    5. Anthony Appiah – [Wole Soyinka and the Myth of an African World]
    6. Gerald Moore – Soyinka’s New Play
    7. Tanure Ojaide – [Death and the King’s Horseman in the Classroom]
    8. Martin Rohmer – Wole Soyinka’s "Death and the King’s Horseman," Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester


    1. D.S. Izevbaye – Mediation in Soyinka: The Case of the King’s Horseman
    2. Eldred Durosimi Jones – Death and the King’s Horseman
    3. Henry Louis Gates – Being, the Will, and the Semantics of Death
    4. Biodun Jeyifo – [Ideology and Tragedy]
    5. Wole Soyinka – [Elesin Oba and the Critics]
    6. Joan Hepburn – [Ritual Closure in Death and the King’s Horseman]
    7. Adebayo Williams – Ritual and the Political Unconscious: The Case of Death and the King’s Horseman
    8. David Richards – [Death and the King’s Horseman and the Masks of Language]
    9. Olankule George – [Tragedy, Mimicry, and The African World]

    Selected Bibliography