Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Aimé Césaire’s reputation up to the publication of The Tragedy of King Christophe was based primarily on his work as a highly respected poet and politician in his native Martinique. His major work up to 1963 was his long poem titled Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939; Memorandum on My Martinique, 1947, also as Return to My Native Land, 1968), which had established his literary reputation in both Europe and the United States. In that poem, he articulated the ideals of a term he and another black poet, Léopold Senghor, had invented: “négritude.” He has, since then, become most consistently associated with that concept, a concept that expresses the pride of black people in the fact of their blackness and urges them to reject assimilation with white, European culture: They should honor and attend to their unique racial roots.

By the early 1960’s, however, Césaire wanted to reach a larger audience and turned to the writing of plays that would clearly articulate the concerns of black people using relevant historical and literary models as subjects. His conscious effort to turn away from writing his sometimes highly sophisticated and intellectually challenging poetry to using a more accessible and conventional dramatic structure demonstrated his seriousness in propounding black causes.

The Tragedy of King Christophe was the first drama in a proposed trilogy of plays devoted to...

(The entire section is 424 words.)