Death and the King's Horseman

by Wole Soyinka

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Research the involvement of African nations in World War II. Where on the African continent were battles fought? Which nations were involved in the fighting? Does it seem reasonable that the characters in Death and the King’s Horseman would be largely oblivious to the war? How accurate and appropriate is the term ‘‘world war’’?

The British used to have a proud saying: ‘‘The sun never sets on the British Empire.’’ Using research and a map of the world, identify the parts of the world that were under British rule in the early 1940s, when Death and the King’s Horseman takes place. Then identify the parts of the world under British rule in 1975, when the play was written. Where does the British Empire reach today?

Soyinka was raised as a Christian, but his parents were also Yoruba. What evidence of this rich combination of influences is found in Death and the King’s Horseman

Find audio recordings of the kinds of music that are heard in this play: a tango, a Viennese waltz, the song ‘‘Rule Britannia,’’ and indigenous Yoruba music. How does each type of music reflect the culture that produced it?

Research masquerade rituals performed in West Africa, paying special attention to the traditional clothing, masks, and other objects associated with these ceremonies. How are they alike and unlike the ceremonies performed in your own religious or ethnic practice?

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