Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka

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In Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman, is Elesin a tragic hero?

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Ashly Hintz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s horseman, the character of Elesin is not a tragic hero. His story is not particularly heroic for several reasons, but most of all because he fails in his ultimate mission due to his own vice. Elesin’s mission, as the horseman, is to commit suicide alongside the king and accompany him to the afterlife. However, when the king passes away, Elesin delays this because he is engaged to be married to a beautiful young woman, and he lusts desperately after her.

Because of his delay, his son commits suicide instead, partly out of shame and partly to preserve the family’s duties when his father refuses to. The shame eventually overcomes Elesin, and he commits suicide in his depression, which is no longer honorable. The fact that Elesin failed in his duties, and even worse that he allowed his son to die because of his inaction and refusal to perform his duties, makes him a poor hero, so I would say he is not a tragic hero.

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In Wole Soyinka’s play Death...

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