Who is the Warrior in the play?
The Warrior, or the Soldier, is the previous identity of the Dead Man, which is revealed in a scene in the court of Mata Kharibu and Madame Tortoise. When Mata Kharibu wants to fight a needless war, the Soldier speaks up and tries to resist the command in order to maintain a sense of honor. For his disobedience to the court, the soldier is castrated and sold into slavery. His mistreatment in the court is the reason why the Dead Man must return to the world of the living and seek recompense from his wrongdoers.
How does Soyinka incorporate traditional modes of African theater into the play?
While at times, the play reads much like any other European play, with characters engaging in straightforward dialogue, there are many moments when the spiritual elements of the narrative take hold and different type of performance modes come to stand in for dialogue. For instance, the entire narrative of the play is built around the welcoming of the dead back to the world of the living, which involves an elaborate musical ritual, including possession and dance. These are used to help illuminate elements of the plot that are not so straightforward, literal, or linear, but rather spiritual and ecstatic. Additionally, the play goes back in time seamlessly, to show the former lives of the present-day characters. These elements of theatricality serve to elevate the narrative and communicate the themes of the play in different ways.
Who is the Forest Head?
The Forest Head is a god who has made humans in his image. He seeks for them to live in peace, but humans continue to abuse one another. He persists in trying to find a way for these souls to atone for the pain that they have caused in order for them to be set free and their victims to finally have rest in the afterlife. Though he carries on, he knows that his efforts are futile and that the journey to restoration and wholeness is one that they will have to initiate on their own.
What is an example of personification in the play?
During the welcoming dance for the Dead Man, Dead Woman, and the Half-Child, a number of elements and features of nature are conjured. Spirits of volcanoes, pachyderms, rivers, water, and others speak up and deliver monologues in verse about their plights. Soyinka depicts the natural world as a realm that is alive with energy and has its own needs and desires. The personification serves to show the ways that nature and man are interconnected.
In what ways has the play been interpreted as a political allegory?
The play was written in celebration of Nigerian independence from colonial rulership in 1960. It depicts an image of the world in which human beings are implored not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The image of the fallible mortals who are assembled by Aroni is representative of African politics—the fact that it has been marked by corruption in the past, but has a chance to make right on its past wrongs.
The play suggested, controversially, that imperialism and colonialism were able to thrive in Nigeria as a result of the corruption and backwardness of some of the systems already in place. The play depicts a world in which people must rule themselves vigilantly, and in which nobility and honor must not be punished as it is in the case of the Warrior in Mata Kharibu's court.