Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka

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In Death and the King's Horseman, Iyaloja talks to the girl about not thinking about the dead or the living but only the unborn. What does she mean?

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The final words spoken in the play by Iyaloja to the Bride of Elesin are “Now forget the dead, forget even the living. Turn your mind only to the unborn.” There are two interpretations of this statement.

Moments prior to the end of the play, Iyajola angrily chastises Elesin: “Who are you to open a new life when you dared not open the door to a new existence?” In the opening scene of the play, Elesin chooses a new wife and later takes her virginity. Iyaloja refers to the pregnancy of the Bride; she is carrying “new life” in her womb. An understanding of this leads to the second interpretation of Iyaloja’s words.

Iyaloja is also speaking to the Bride as a member of the wider community that has just experienced a catastrophe. The play begins when Elesin is preparing to take his own life one month after the death of the King; he is the King’s Horseman, and his final duty is to follow the King and lead him safely through the afterlife. In the faith of Elesin’s culture, this...

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