James Ene Henshaw Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

James Ene Henshaw is known only for his drama.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

As one of the pioneering dramatists in Nigeria, James Ene Henshaw was also one of the first to be published outside West Africa. This Is Our Chance, which has undergone many reprintings, has been extremely popular in West Africa since its first production by the Association of Students of African Descent in Dublin in 1948. It has been staged by professional companies as well as school and amateur groups.

In 1952, Henshaw’s dramatic talents were acknowledged when his play The Jewels of the Shrine won the Henry Carr Memorial Cup as the best one-act play in the All-Nigeria Festival of the Arts. Henshaw’s reputation was enhanced when A Man of Character was mentioned in Nigeria 10, the tenth-anniversary commemorative publication in honor of Nigerian independence compiled by the Federal Military Government.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Dathorne, O. R. African Literature in the Twentieth Century. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1975. Under a chapter entitled “African Drama in French and English,” Dathorne compares “social reality and the inner life” in the plays of Henshaw and others. Discusses This Is Our Chance, saying that the “title play describes a society that is fettered by an outmoded tradition but nevertheless aspires toward western values.” The main character is discussed in terms of “tradition” versus “worn-out institutions.”

Edet, Rosemary N. The Resilence of Religious Tradition in the Dramas of Wole Soyinka and James Ene Henshaw. Rome: R. Nkoyo Edet, 1984. An examination of the role of religion in the works of Henshaw and Soyinka. Includes bibliography.

Graham-White, Anthony. The Drama of Black Africa. New York: Samuel French, 1974. In the chapter entitled “Drama Seeking Independence,” Graham-White places Henshaw with the transitional playwrights, between the British era and the stylistic changes after the independence movement. Graham-White notes that “Henshaw’s plays have little artistic value, yet they are often performed in the schools and are popular there for their simple characterization and firm didacticism.”

Ogunba, Oyin. “Modern Drama in West Africa.” In Perspectives on African Literature, edited by Christopher Heywood. New York: Africana Publishing, 1971. Henshaw is placed with R. Sarif Easmon as a playwright whose motive is “as he himself has implied again and again, to make good citizens of his audience.” Discusses This Is Our Chance and Children of the Goddess at some length.

Omobowale, Babatunde. “Ageing in Nigerian Literature: James Ene Henshaw’s The Jewels of the Shrine.” The Lancet 354 (November, 1999): S21-S23. Omobowale offers a critique of The Jewels of the Shrine as well as a discussion of aging in Nigeria.

Taiwo, Oladele. An Introduction to West African Literature. 1967. Reprint. Walton-on-Thames, England: Nelson, 1981. Puts the work of Henshaw in place as the beginnings of Nigerian drama. Describes the one-act plays, “based on one aspect or other of African culture and tradition.”