Characters Discussed

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.


Zifa is a complex and contradictory character. In most respects, he is a good husband and father and deeply devoted to his wife, Ebiere. Zifa is also a proud and arrogant man who refuses to accept that he is impotent. He repeatedly rejects help, saying,

This is a plight

that allows for no help.

And I will not be the man

To open myself for others to trample on.

Instead, he casts the blame for his problem on others, particularly Ebiere. He believes that he can defy divine will by forcing matters against the advice of his elders. Zifa's arrogance also leads him to make a series of fatal mistakes. He refuses to receive help from others, even when it is freely offered to him. This pride ultimately leads to his downfall, as it prevents him from seeing the danger that he and his family are in.

As a noble and well-intentioned character brought down by his flaws, Zifa is a tragic hero. The audience can sympathize with him, but they also see how his flaws ultimately lead to his demise.


Ebiere, Zifa's wife, is frustrated by her husband's impotence and wants to have more children. However, she rebukes Masseur when he suggests that she have religiously sanctioned intercourse with her brother-in-law Tonye to fulfill this desire.

However, her sexual frustrations soon overcome her. First, she lashes out at her young child. Then, she seduces Tonye and conducts an illicit affair with him. She is clearly unhappy with her family and situation, as is evident when she urges Tonye to run away with her:

EBIERE: . . . Tonye, Let us fly

And set up a house in another creek. You'll

Cast your net and I'll hold the stern until

We have our child.

Tonye rejects this idea, and the inevitable confrontation with Zifa nearly leads to Ebiere's death.


The "half-possessed aunt" of Zifa, Orukorere has the blessing of foresight but is cursed so that she is never believed. Her frantic visions and erratic behavior lead others to think she is senile. However, she sees events much more clearly than most people around her.

Despite her reputation, Orukorere is often called upon to offer advice. She tells Zifa that a sacrifice should be made, even though he misunderstands his role in the rite. She also comforts Dode when he witnesses his mother and uncle's affair. Orukorere tries to maintain the sanctity and respect of the family, even though she is often a subject of ridicule by those who fail to understand her.


Tonye, Zifa's younger brother, tries to be a responsible man, looking after the women and children of the household. He attempts to console Ebiere, telling her she should be content with the blessings she already enjoys. At first, he tries to ward off Ebiere's sexual advances. However, he soon gives in. Eventually, in his shame, Tonye attempts to escape his guilt by taking his own life.


Masseur, the elderly healer and oracle, serves as the voice of principle and virtue for the people of his village. He urges Zifa to take responsibility for his problems and impotence. Masseur symbolizes the community and understands the value of going to others for help. Thoughtful and humble, he is, in many ways, the opposite of the rash and arrogant Zifa.

The Neighbors

Three neighbors serve the role of the chorus in this play. They provide commentary on the goings-on of the other characters and explain offstage action. They are sometimes presented as nosy gossips, particularly when commenting on Orukorere's strange behavior. However, they also show concern for Zifa and his family and quickly help during crises.


Dode is the young child of Zifa and Ebiere. He is presented as energetic and inquisitive, as well as innocent in the transgressions of his parents.

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