The Death and the King’s Horseman drama is based off a true story that occurred in Nigeria under British colonial control, when the authorities prevented the Horseman of the Yoruba King from committing a ritual suicide. Soyinka questions the Horseman about his own suicide fervour, which throws the community off balance.
By analysing Soyinka’s play, I hope to understand the Rasa. The use of images, suggestions and other means will give the impression of bliss and unboundedness. Elesin’s love for life is evident in his zeal to celebrate it and to marry a girl. The image of the Not I bird evokes Sringara rasa, where readers are filled with a love for life that is manifested through the anubhavas and bodily movements as in dance. Unfortunately, the happy rasa of Elesin’s life is accompanied by the pathos rasa.
Elesin is an example of Bhayanaka rasa in action. Death is a subject that people avoid discussing because of their fear. Elesin’s courage to face the death on her own is also an example of Veer-ras, which is shown in people of valor. This act is an excellent example of Veer Ras where death has less importance in comparison with honour.
Karuna Rasa is the main theme of all the quotes and incidents in the play. Elesin’s zest for living cannot prevent her from dying. Bibhasta is another rasa that can easily be evoked. It is the emotional reaction to something unwanted and unfavorable. This is the rasa that is invoked on readers and even actors when Elesin is near death. Elesin’s desire of a young woman with betothed skin evokes the bibhasta.
Elesin also noticed that his son Olunde did not die after the traditional ritual.
Soyinka’s focus is on the future life of the child that the young bride will carry, in spite of its tragic ending. Natyashastra celebrates life, and the ending of the play follows this pattern. Karuna Rasa is invoked by the sorrow and pain felt by the audience at the end of the play. Soyinka’s plays have been described as visionary social plays.