Death and the King's Horseman Essential Quotes by Theme: Duty

Wole Soyinka

Essential Quotes by Theme: Duty

Essential Passage 1: Act 2

AMUSA:
The government say dat kin’ ting must stop.

WOMAN:
Who will stop it? You? Tonight our husband and father will prove himself greater than the laws of strangers.

AMUSA:
I tell you nobody go prove anyting tonight or anytime. Is ignorant and criminal to prove dat kin’ prove.

IYALOJA:
[entering from hut. she is accompanied by a group of YOUNG GIRLS who have been attending the BRIDE] What is it Amusa? Why do you come here to disturb the happiness of others.

AMUSA:
Madam Iyaloja, I glad you come. You know me, I no like trouble but duty is duty. I am here to arrest Elesin for criminal intent. Tell these women to stop obstructing me in the performance of my duty.

IYALOJA:
And you? What gives you the right to obstruct our leader of men in the performance of his duty?

Summary
Amusa, who is a sergeant in the British police force, is in a difficult position as an African in the service of the British. Under orders from Pilkings, he has come to arrest Elesin so that the king’s horseman will not commit suicide. Amusa interrupts the wedding celebrations of Elesin and his new young bride, evoking the ire of the market women. The women try to prevent Amusa from carrying out his orders, stating that Elesin, their “husband and father,” will prove himself greater than the British laws against suicide. Interrupted by Iyaloja, the market mother, Amusa is initially glad to see her, believing that she will be the voice of reason in this trying situation. Yet Iyaloja proves otherwise, stating that Amusa has no right to prevent the ceremony or the ritual suicide of Elesin. It is Elesin who is to be allowed to do his duty, not Amusa.

Essential Passage 2: Act 4

JANE:
…Mind you there is the occasional bit of excitement like that ship that was blown up in the harbor.

OLUNDE:
Here? Do you mean through enemy action?

JANE:
Oh no, the war hasn’t come that close. The captain did it himself. I don’t quite understand it really. Simon tried to explain. The ship had to be blown up because it had become dangerous to the other ships, even to the city itself. Hundreds of the coastal population would have died.

OLUNDE:
Maybe it was loaded with ammunition and had caught fire. Or some of those lethal gases they’ve been experimenting on.

JANE:
Something like that. The captain blew himself up with it. Deliberately. Simon said someone had to remain on board to light the fuse.

OLUNDE:
It must have been a very short fuse.

JANE [shrugs]:
I don’t know much about it. Only that there was no other way to save lives. No time to devise anything else. The captain took the decision and carried it out.

OLUNDE:
Yes…I quite believe it. I met men like that in England.

Summary
Olunde, Elesin’s son, has returned from England where he has been attending medical school. Olunde went to England against his father’s wishes, and there is still much animosity on the part of Elesin that Pilkings would try to make his son over to fit in with the white man’s world, though to the limited degree allowed to a person of color. Olunde had left England on hearing of the king’s death, knowing the duty that was required of his father. By chance or by design, he arrives on the day of his father’s predetermined suicide. Mrs. Jane Pilkings and her husband Simon are discussing the voyage to Africa during a time of war. Jane mentions a British sea captain who died by purposely blowing himself up with his ship to prevent its endangering the coastal town. Olunde, though he...

(The entire section is 1664 words.)